Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Unpaid workers urged to complain to ministry before problems escalate

The advice comes after a spate of recent cases where employees have been owed millions of dirhams in unpaid wages due to businesses hitting financial hardship or being run by reckless bosses.

DUBAI // Workers who are owed more than two months’ salary are being urged to register complaints as quickly as possible to avoid slipping into debt that could put them in trouble with the authorities.

The advice followed a spate of cases where employees have been left without millions of dirhams in wages because businesses have hit financial hardship or were run by reckless bosses.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said it will take tough action against companies found to be late in paying workers, and has reassured employees that all steps will be taken to help.

In February, workers at Oilfield Integrity Management Energy Group took their claims of unpaid salaries to Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, the licensing body for businesses in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

Workers at an engineering company in Dubai Investments Park said they were owed months of wages.

David, a logistics supervisor, has been at the company for more than two years but was not paid for four months before a resolution was reached.

“I was owed about Dh50,000 in total,” said David, who lives in Abu Dhabi and has monthly outgoings of about Dh6,500.

“I have a credit card debt, so have asked for a letter from the finance department to show there were problems, otherwise I would be in trouble with the police.

“I’m getting so many calls from banks asking for money. The HR department told me they didn’t know when the cash flow issues would be resolved.”

Another worker at the Dubai Investments Park company, Joel, was forced to sell belongings to stave off creditors after his salary stopped.

“I had to sell some of my possessions for the last couple of months to pay for food and utility bills,” he said.

“I sold my Xbox and other bits from my flat, it’s been crazy. I’ve a loan of Dh190,000 so can’t leave, I’m stuck here.”

Like many of their colleagues, both men have been paid a percentage of what they are owed, with promises of full reimbursement to come.

Workers owed more than two months’ salary face a difficult proposition – either continue working for free, or cut their losses and find alternative jobs. Companies that fail to pay staff for two months in a row can be sanctioned, fined or closed.

Once a ministry inspector receives a report, the employer is visited to verify the complaint discreetly and prevent the employer taking any arbitrary measures against the employee, such as sacking.

An investigation into the cause of the delay can then be opened, with court action a possibility.

If a court rules in favour of an employee, execution will be made in respect of the company’s assets and bank guarantees, with any employee retaining labour rights.

“Any employee who does not receive his salary for two months or more should file a labour complaint without delay,” a ministry spokesman said.

“They should not wait until his employer misses pay cheques for several months; this might affect his standard of living and life conditions.”

Complaints can be registered through Tasheel service centres or via the ministry’s mobile app.

According to the labour consul at the Consulate General of India in Bur Dubai, there has been an rise in cases of workers asking for help in the past 18 months, although more complete statistics were not available.

While the embassy or consulate has no means of helping clear personal debt, it can assist financially for food and accommodation expenses for a maximum of 30 days from the Indian Community Welfare fund.

“If the worker has been working with the company for several years and it has a good track record, we advise them [the worker] to be supportive,” said the Consulate General of India.

“Almost all companies work on credit. If a client gets into financial difficulty and is unable to pay the company, it sets of a chain reaction.”

If passports have been withheld, an emergency certificate can be issued to facilitate travel back to India.

“There are plenty of cases where workers have approached the consulate for assistance in retrieving pending salaries,” he said.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: March 12, 2017 04:00 AM

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