x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Workers flock to trafficking centre to resolve salary and passport disputes

More than 300 workers have approached the Centre for Monitoring Human Trafficking this year to resolve disputes including unpaid salaries and illegally held passports.

DUBAI // More than 300 workers have approached the Centre for Monitoring Human Trafficking this year to resolve disputes including unpaid salaries and illegally held passports. Though the Ministry of Labour generally oversees such disputes between workers and their employees, the centre inspects labourers' accommodation and deals with their complaints. In addition to 300 individual complaints, 47 groups of workers also approached the centre for help.

"The majority of the complaints involved delayed salaries, unlawful deductions in salaries, delays in residency cancellations and recovery of documents for those workers who wish to leave the country," said Lt Col Sultan al Jamal, the director of the centre. The majority of the complainants were from Asian countries, followed by Arab nationals and Africans. "We were able to solve all the received complaints and we will continue to take fierce measures against companies that violate workers' rights," said Lt Col al Jamal.

Between February and October last year, the centre received 344 worker complaints, 76 per cent of which were related to non-payment of salaries, according to the centre's records. Last year, workers from Asian countries submitted more than 85 per cent of the complaints, followed by Arab nationals, who made up 11 per cent.   The government is trying to take tougher measures to protect workers' rights.

In May last year, the Ministry of Labour, in co-operation with the Central Bank, introduced the Wage Protection System, by which the payment of workers' salaries is monitored by the Government. Companies found in violation are blocked from all transactions with the Ministry of Labour until salaries are paid. In critical cases, where the company continued to violate workers' rights, they are referred to public prosecution to face criminal charges.

The Centre for Monitoring Human Trafficking was set up in February 2009 under 2006 federal human trafficking guidelines that prescribed penalties including fines of up to Dh1million. The centre also inspected 689 labour accommodation camps across Dubai this year - including those in Jebel Ali, Sonapur and Al Qouz - to ensure that workers' living conditions were acceptable. There are various departments within the centre, including one that monitors the working and living conditions of the expatriate workforce.

The department has two divisions - one dealing with inspections and precautionary campaigns, and the other with labour protests. It works closely with the Ministry of Labour and the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs in Dubai. The estimated expatriate workforce registered at the Ministry of Labour is 4.1million, about half of whom live in Dubai. @Email:wissa@thenational.ae