x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Labour laws save man forced to sign three contracts for same job in UAE

After signing on for Dh1,300 a month job in the UAE, a shady agency told man he had to sign a new contract for Dh720, and then for Dh620 or go home.

Samuel Picardal had his employment contract changed repeatedly after his arrival in the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National
Samuel Picardal had his employment contract changed repeatedly after his arrival in the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Samuel Picardal signed a contract for a job paying Dh1,300 a month before moving to the UAE.

When he arrived he was presented with another … offering Dh720.

"The agency here said if we don't sign we'd all be sent home," said Mr Picardal, a Filipino who now works as a clerk in a hospital in Al Ain. "I knew nothing about the UAE's labour laws so I signed."

When the company started to process his visa, he was asked to sign another contract with a Dh620 salary.

Although suspicious, Mr Picardal signed. Six months later, he went to the Labour Ministry to check if he could change his job.

"They said I was allowed to transfer to a new employer since my former company did not pay us on time, failed to provide payslips and did not honour the original contract," he said.

He was among more than 100 office boys, waiting staff and receptionists at his company who were victims of contract substitution, where a second, lesser labour contract is presented to a worker, either before leaving their home country or after arriving in the UAE.

The problem can be addressed if contracts are transferred electronically from the Philippines to the UAE, said Nasser Munder, the Filipino labour attache in Abu Dhabi.

"When we receive complaints from workers we try to resolve the problem with the employer," Mr Munder said. "If they refuse to cooperate we ask Manila to suspend deployment of the workers to that company."

Migrante-UAE, a Filipino rights group, has handled at least five such cases every month this year.

"The workers do not have a choice but to sign a new contract once they arrive," said Karen Tanedo, its chairwoman. "They are already in debt so they decide to stay."

Mr Picardal had to take out a loan to pay a "placement" fee of 30,000 pesos (Dh2,647) charged by a recruitment agency in the Philippines.

In Dubai, contract substitution is common for Filipino household workers. The Philippine overseas labour office will require agencies to each bring two domestic workers for an interview this month.

"We'll ask her if she is being paid US$400," said Delmer Cruz, the Filipino labour attache in Dubai. "If a housemaid is asked to sign another contract with a reduced salary, that's bad faith on the part of the agency."

Since December 2006, the Philippines has required that its citizens be paid at least $400 (Dh1,469) a month for domestic work.

Authorities will also ask the workers if they are treated well, and have suitable living quarters, adequate food and rest, and access to phones.