UAE speaks out against forced labour
ABU DHABI // The Gulf Cooperation Council is denouncing forced labour, which it considers a shameful crime, Humaid bin Deemas, undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Labour, has said.
Providing a decent workplace for all employees and protecting workers’ rights can serve as a guarantee they would not fall into the forced labour category, he said.
Mr bin Deemas was speaking on behalf of the GCC delegations at the International Labour Conference held in Geneva recently.
The meeting discussed measures to strengthen ILO Convention 29 on forced labour issued in 1930. Forced labour is work undertaken voluntarily under the threat of menace or penalty. Workers who are trapped in jobs in which they have been coerced or deceived into, and which they cannot leave, constitute forced labour.
Mr bin Deemas said GCC countries were willing to contribute to the international efforts to eliminate all forms of forced labour.
“We’re developing new legal tools to address gaps in the current coverage,” he said. “We support the ILO’s interest in this issue, which represents one of our four strategic pillars.”
Companies are being urged not to breach workers’ rights nor do anything that contravenes the labour laws.
Forced labour, he said, was considered a criminal offence, according to the human-trafficking laws in the GCC and international conventions combating forced labour.
The UAE has provided excellent protection for labourers because it gave them the ability to move freely from one employer to another. The wage protection system was developed to ensure proper transfer of salaries.
Recent measures have included the adoption of international conventions, enforcement including fines, strict accommodation rules, enforcement of prompt salary payments, international cooperation, recruitment protection and complaints mechanisms, according to a report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published last month.
GCC countries have adopted the ILO conventions on forced labour as well as the Palermo Protocol, a UN protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in people, especially women and children.
Statistics have shown that these countries receive nearly 2.5 million contract workers a year, which makes it necessary for the GCC to be involved in international efforts to eradicate forced labour and effectively prevent workers from becoming forced-labour victims across the region, Mr bin Deemas said.
“GCC countries sought to activate genuine partnerships with labour-sending countries through a variety of mechanisms, particularly signing MoUs, alongside the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, which aims at improving the management of the employment relationships with those countries,” he said.
Updated: June 7, 2014 04:00 AM