x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Indian workers given new contract guarantee

The labourers will be able to see their full contracts, under an agreement signed by the Indian government and the UAE Ministry of Labour.

DUBAI // Indian blue-collar workers can be assured they will not be cheated by employers when they arrive in the UAE, after an agreement was signed between the two countries yesterday.

The online system will need the “informed consent and approval by the worker, the employer and the Indian … authorities of the full terms of the work contract”, before the worker leaves India.

The process aims to increase transparency in recruitment and reduce contract substitution, an illegal practice in which a worker signs a contract before leaving home, but is told to sign another contract on arrival in the UAE, with less pay and longer hours.

And the system may in future be available to workers from other countries.

“We look forward to the full activation of the new system and to making it available to other labour-sending countries in the future,” said Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Labour, after the signing.

Yesterday’s agreement was signed by Mr Ghobash and Vayalar Ravi, Indian minister of overseas affairs at the labour ministry in Abu Dhabi.

“Among the key features of this fledging system is ensuring the informed consent of the worker by requiring that a recruitment agency, duly accredited by the Indian government, make a copy of the draft contract available to the worker and attesting his or her approval of the contractual terms and conditions,” Mr Ghobash said.

“The concerned Indian government agency will access the contract and, upon approval of its terms, issue the emigration clearance.”

A large percentage of the 1.7 million Indian expatriates in the UAE are blue-collared workers.

After this step is taken, the contract will be registered with the labour ministry, which will then issue the work permit to the labourer.

Licensed recruitment agents in India will have to explain to workers the contract terms, the remuneration and employment conditions and the benefits before they leave, officials said.

“It will empower workers in such a way that they know the terms,” said MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador. “The employer has to file the same contract with the embassy and the labour ministry. Earlier, only after workers got into trouble, we would know.”

Despite the attempt to protect workers, the ambassador conceded that challenges remained.

“It is possible for workers to get cheated. But, recruitment agents are registered with the government and their record is known. They can be punished,” Mr Lokesh said.

There are around 2,000 government-recognised, licensed recruitment agents in India.

The online system is on a trial period and will be operational in four to six weeks, Mr Lokesh said.

“We look forward to the full activation of the new system and to making it available to other labour-sending countries in the future,” said Mr Ghobash.

The system will be a topic of discussion at the Second Ministerial Consultation of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue among Asian Countries of Origin and Destination that will take place in Manila on April 19.

pkannan@thenational.ae