x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

What the labour law really means

A decision to regulate the indiscriminate dismissal of Emiratis from jobs in private companies is designed to protect the hard workers.

ABU DHABI // A government decision to regulate the indiscriminate dismissal of Emiratis from jobs in private companies is designed to protect the hard workers, not those who do not perform, Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, said yesterday.

"We wanted, by issuing the ministerial resolution, to protect the committed citizen," he said in answer to a question by a member of the Federal National Council. "The resolution doesn't protect the uncommitted and undisciplined, whether a citizen or non-citizen." The FNC yesterday convened its first session since the constitutional amendment in December that extended its term from two years to four, thereby annulling its scheduled dissolution last month. The session yesterday was attended by a number of ministers who answered questions and took part in debates on a variety of issues.

Mr Ghobash said that between Jan 1 2008 and Feb 15 of this year his ministry had received 64 complaints about dismissals. "Only 37 people complained that their dismissal was illegitimate, and the rest quit for other reasons, including delays in receiving salaries," he said. At the moment, 15,000 Emiratis have jobs in the private sector, he said. Ali al Matroushi, a member from Ajman, said the Government ought to exert more effort to increase the number of Emiratis working in the private sector. The vast majority of the Emirati workforce is employed by federal and local government institutions, but Mr Ghobash said it was important that UAE citizens be qualified enough to land jobs in the private sector.

"There should be a balance where the citizens have the experience that would give the private employer the choice to hire them rather than being forced to do so," he said. "Everyone knows that the private sector is competitive, and we can't accept protecting a citizen in a company if they are not productive or disciplined." Obaid Humaid al Tayer, the Minister of State for Financial Affairs, took a question from Hamad al Madfaa, a member from Sharjah, pertaining to discrepancies in salaries of federal employees and pension issues.

Noting that low-ranking police officers were paid more than doctors, Mr al Madfaa said: "Salaries shouldn't be the same where a policeman gets paid more than a doctor despite the 13 years' difference in education between them." Mr al Tayer replied that the salaries for the military and police were decided by federal decrees, which put them in a different rank from the civil payroll system. Abdullah al Shehi, a representative from Ras al Khaimah, asked Mr al Tayer if the General Pension and Social Security Authority planned to increase pensions for Emiratis as a result of the rising cost of living.

Mr al Tayer replied that long-term commitments made it difficult to increase pensions systematically. "A minister can't just commit to make increases," he said. "We have to have money covering 70 years ahead. We hope to increase pensions, but this has to be done slowly." A comparison with the pension system in Singapore and Norway showed that Emirati pensioners received greater benefits, especially given that they do not have to pay taxes, he said. There are 73,000 subscribers to the UAE pension system, with 11,500 of them already receiving money.

In other matters yesterday, the FNC passed draft legislation putting the annual basic salary for the Prime Minister at Dh960,000 (US$261,000), that of his deputy at Dh840,000 and that of cabinet ministers at Dh720,000. They also discussed the UAE Marriage Fund, from which Emirati men who marry Emirati women are given a Dh70,000 government bursary because of the high cost of marriage. Some FNC members urged the Government to introduce rules limiting Emiratis from marrying foreigners.