x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE exchange bureau blames unpaid wages on computer glitch

Staff at firms in Sharjah and Dubai are still waiting for salaries two weeks after pay day.

DUBAI // An exchange bureau yesterday blamed a computer glitch for its failure to pay out hundreds of salaries due before the Eid holiday.

Staff at several small to medium-sized companies in Dubai and Sharjah are still waiting for their wages more than two weeks after their employers transferred the cash to the bureau, Asia Exchange.

The bureau's parent company Ali Omran Al Owais said yesterday they were investigating the issue and promised those still waiting to be paid that they would receive their money.

"We have an internal computer system update and there have been some glitches with that process," a spokesman said. "We are working hard to resolve the issue and are in contact with the businesses that have been affected by the problems."

Companies whose staff have not been paid were unconvinced by the explanation. "We aren't taking any chances. The Central Bank in Abu Dhabi has received our complaint," said Manuj Kumar, a manager at Chirag Contracting in Dubai.

"We are scheduled to have a meeting with them next week and they have told us we will get our money back," Mr Kumar said.

His company deposited Dh339,000 with Asia Exchange on August 11 for its 300 workers.

The bureau has told him they would have their money returned by this week, but as yet they have received nothing.

"I don't understand, if it was a computer problem, why it would take so long to get resolved," Mr Kumar said.

Fortuna Engineering in Sharjah deposited its 28 workers' wages with Asia Exchange on August 12. The bureau failed to pay Fortuna's staff so the company decided to pay them in cash, and is now Dh30,800 out of pocket.

"It is rather strange that they are saying it's computer problems because it's been almost impossible to get hold of the offices and none of the representatives are answering their mobile phones," said Lavita D'Souza, marketing manager at the family-run business.

"If they had informed us with an email or a call that this was the problem then that would be understandable.

"It's a real shame this problem has happened because the majority of people affected are blue-collar workers.

"We were lucky in that we could afford to pay the salaries of our workers, but for other companies that have higher wages that will be a problem.

"We will give it a week or so and then look at what legal options we have to recover the money."

The company has registered a complaint with the Central Bank and the police, and have been advised to open a court case to recover the money if they feel they will not otherwise be able to do so.

It is not known if any remittances from UAE residents to their home countries have been affected by Asia Exchange's problems.

The Ali Omran Al Owais spokesman said the company had started updating its computers around Eid Al Fitr.

"At the moment we are still investigating why the problems have occurred but we are hopeful of resolving the matter shortly," he said.

"People will not lose out on their salaries."

Employee salaries can be paid through an exchange bureau as part of the Ministry of Labour's Wage Protection System, which allows the ministry to ensure that companies do not default on salaries and that workers are paid on time without any unlawful deductions.

No one at the Central Bank was available for comment.

nhanif@thenational.ae