x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Workers unhappy with pay settlement

After nine months out of work, employees of a bankrupt construction firm finally get notice of what they'll receive - and they are not satisfied.

Phool Chand claims that discrepancies in his paperwork are resulting in him receiving less money than he should get after working for Otaiba al Garg for 15 years.
Phool Chand claims that discrepancies in his paperwork are resulting in him receiving less money than he should get after working for Otaiba al Garg for 15 years.

ABU DHABI // Some men who worked for a construction company that went bankrupt last year said they received inadequate compensation packages, alleging the company misled the labour court about how long they had worked there.

After being in legal limbo for nine months since losing their jobs at the Otaiba al Garg company, the 128 men finally received court documents outlining what they would be paid. They say that amount should include lost salaries, leave gratuity and bonuses. But many of them claim the documents do not accurately report when they joined the company, so the calculations are too low. Kamala Sharma, who said he joined Otaiba al Garg in 1992, said his compensation only reflects the last contract he signed in 2001.

"They have only submitted the new contracts to court and not the original ones we signed when we first joined the company," he said. "We initially did not have contracts when we joined in 1993. We just kept working out of trust. "Our paperwork was in order. The visa was in our passports and we received regular salaries. We knew we were working for a good company." It is not uncommon for compensation to be less than expected, said a lawyer who has represented the men at the labour court in Musaffah since May.

"If they are not satisfied with what they have received, there is always a procedure that allows for reappeal. But that will take some time. Maybe a few more months," said Ansari Sainudeen, of Al Fajer legal consultants. Mr Sainudeen said this was the first time he had seen abandonment of workers on such a large scale. Otaiba al Garg had been in business for more than 20 years. Neeraj Garg, the son of one of the owners of the company, referred all questions to the company's lawyer. His signature appears on a number of the documents, and he at one time held the power of attorney for his father, Jai Prakash Garg.

"At the time, when they asked for their releases from the company, I signed the documents but my power of attorney was cancelled some time back by the court," he said. "I cannot do anything for them." The workers have relied on food handouts from the Red Crescent Authority, the Indian Embassy and other local organisations to get by. Ravi Gimmerathi, who claims he joined the company in 1986, said he received a notice that said he would be paid Dh9,079 (US$2,475). He said he had been told earlier that he would receive Dh15,300 for his years of service.

"They didn't say when I will get the money, except to keep returning to get the court orders," he said. "I just want to go home." Phool Chand, another worker who said he was with the company since 1986, found he would receive Dh7,200. "This is very little compensation for the work I have done. Instead of giving me my dues for working for 15 years, they are only acknowledging that I have worked here for two years," he said.

Mr Chand said he did not sign the documents that were submitted to the court by the company. He alleges that his signature had been photocopied from other documents and added to a form that showed he had been working at the company for only two years. Another worker, Mohammed Jabrullah Khan, said he and about 40 others wanted to stay in the UAE and look for new jobs. The other workers said they wanted to return home.

"I have to get my daughters married off," Mr Khan said. "So I have to stay back and continue working." At least four workers have already found work with other companies. Mohammed Haroon Hussain, from Bangladesh, now lives in the ICAD compound in Musaffah and has found a job at Al Raha Workshop as a mechanic. He receives Dh1,450 a month and said he was happy with the change. "It is nice to work again," he said. "The new company took care of all the paperwork and they are paying me well."

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae