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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Ministry to help 150 workers stuck at labour camp after company goes bust

Labourers say they have not been paid for eight months and they just want to return home to their families.

ABU DHABI // The Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisations has stepped in to help repatriate 150 staff left stranded for eight months without pay after their company went bust.

The staff at the remote Ruwais camp in the Western Region, mostly Indians and Bangladeshis, were left without money and some had only limited access to food and sanitation, their embassies said.

Their sponsor, Emguard Electro Mechanical and General Contracting, went bankrupt and failed to pay their wages.

Dinesh Kumar, first secretary at the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi, said there were 72 Indians stranded but that the embassy was now working with the company and authorities to resolve the issue.

“We received complaints from workers about not getting their wages for months and wanting to go home,” Mr Kumar said.

“We have written twice to local authorities about this. Now the Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation has taken up the case and decided to help repatriate workers by liquidating the security deposit of the company.”

Mr Kumar said he thought they would be repatriated within 20 days. The ministry takes Dh3,000 from firms as a security deposit for each worker.

The workers were told they could switch to another company but most opted to go home, Mr Kumar said.

The Bangladeshi embassy in Abu Dhabi is also in talks to settle the situation.

“About 70 to 80 Bangladeshi workers are stranded there in Ruwais labour camp and they haven’t received their wages for about eight months,” said Arman Chowdhury, the embassy’s labour counsellor.

Palani, one of the workers who complained to the Indian foreign ministry, said they were living a nightmare.

“I didn’t receive my last eight months’ salary,” he said. “I want this to go home but the company is not cancelling my visa.”

Another Indian worker, Saravanan, said his family was waiting for him and they had been depressed by news of his situation.

“I approached the head office of the company for cancellation of my work visa but it didn’t respond,” he said. “My visa expired five months back and I have eight months’ salary pending.”

The Pakistani and Sri Lankan embassies also intervened for their citizens.

“Two Sri Lankans were stranded there who were not paid wages for a few months,” the Sri Lankan ambassador, S J Mohideen, said last week. “One repatriated to Sri Lanka last month and another is about to return as the matter has been sorted out.”

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said: “In response to complaints lodged by a number of Asian workers who hadn’t been receiving salaries, the ministry will take necessary procedures to get workers their financial rights by way of monetisation of the bank guarantee amount.”

The ministry added that it had communicated directly with staff and taken measures to provide those who wish to leave the UAE with air tickets.

“The ministry has also provided assistance to workers who wanted to work at other facilities,” it said, adding that penalties are levied against companies that do not adhere to the law.

anwar@thenational.ae