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11 January, 2006

Building a better labour structure

Hushed excitement ripples through the sandlands on the discovery of a website fighting for the rights of poor migrant workers. aims to lobby the UAE to sign up to core ILO conventions allowing for freedom of association - ie trade unions - something which the government is actually already doing:

UAE could get labour unions soon
posted on 27/04/2005
Labour unions could soon be set up in the UAE, a senior official has said. Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, did not give a specific date within which the unions will be set up, but said nothing would happen before the International Labour Organisation (ILO) annual world conference in June.

That was last year, and nothing has been finalised yet, but it is likely. Significant progress has already been made to improve the plight of labourers, largely through the efforts of the heroic labour minister, Dr Al Kaabi. The good doctor has rained hell on lazy ministry employees, salary defaulting companies, and has even personally visited unpaid labourers and forced bosses to pay them.

This doesn't change the fact that the boys in blue are extremely low-paid. Or that many of them take out huge loans to get here, through evil middle men, many of whom are from the same countries as the workers they are exploiting. It is difficult for the UAE to monitor and control the situation in foreign places: but one idea might be for the UAE labour ministry to set up official recruitment offices over the subcontinent, and cut out all the middle men. The UAE can afford this, and frankly it has a moral duty to, given the current situation.

So if Sanjay wants to work in the UAE, he doesn't go to dodgy Dinesh and pay him two years' worth of salary to get over here. He goes to the UAE labour "embassy", fills out his details, and is on a plane straight over - without his family having to suffer huge debts in his absence.



Blogger Balushi said...

what does this inhumane act of not paying a lobourer got to do with Wasta?

i have a website its called

good night.

11 January, 2006 01:44  
Blogger Balushi said...

and Oh!

Its free membership.

11 January, 2006 01:45  
Blogger Destitute Rebel said...

There is a lot the government needs to do to make the situation better. There is no minimum wage, employees are worked overtime, and in most cases in case of a dispute between a laborer and an employer, the laborer is helpless against the employers "power" I would call this modern day slavery. I spend a lot of time with these people (work environment) and it hurts to see them suffer and still have no option. Its not just about the initial payment for the visa - employees are not paid for 3-4 months they can barely eat how do you expect them to fight a legal battle in courts.The reason Government is not doing anything concrete about it is they have a lot at stake - big construction companies that hire 1000's of these laborers are owned by powerful local families and the brunt of reform will cut into their profits.

11 January, 2006 01:46  
Blogger Balushi said...

the funny thing is that we always see the Indians doing it to their own Indians, Germans doing it to their own Germans!

and then they blame the locals.

11 January, 2006 01:47  
Blogger Destitute Rebel said...

@ Balushi - what its gotta do with wasta is that they do not have the wasta and thus suffer at the hands of the people with wasta. secondly i could not find your website. and even the domain is available.

11 January, 2006 01:50  
Blogger hdastoor said...

Development of countries takes place in 3 major stages.
1. economic development
2. Social/labour progress
3. Political development
The UAE is still mired in the first phase. With lack of key core industries ,genuine industrial development (flimsy buildings do not count as progress), monopolies in telecommunication, a highly regulated real estate sector i do not forsee it moving into the second phase any time soon. Until then dont expect labour rules etc to change

11 January, 2006 03:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Development of countries takes place in 3 major stages.
1. economic development
2. Social/labour progress
3. Political development

The 3 phases have not to be separated! History is very very clear, and recent too: no social/political control over labour progress during economic development phases means the rich (those who where wealthy even before the so-called "economic development phase") turning the market in their favor, more "makikng" the rules than "bending" them to their interests! Therefore being transformed into social and political powerhouses during 2nd and 3rd stages, controlling the media and the political arena. It's happening now in the UAE but it happened before in USA, for example (people STILL don't realize that JFK's father was none but one the RICHEST MEN of America at the time of the political prime of his son, and that Bushes made their fortune lending money even to the Germans during WWII!!!). It's happening in Italy, where the wealthiest man, corrupting the political power in the '80s, has gained full control of the media and using them as campaign-hammers got political control of Italy during 1994 and 2001 election! It's NOT happening to the extent in Germany, UK or France, where the political and social rooting is more entranched in the social life, and the bulk of power not so much concentrated in so few hands! It's that a coincidence that the social conscience over labour-related problem started long time ago in those countries?

11 January, 2006 04:01  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

I think its shameful that so much money is being made in places like India by people who simply charge a fortune to workers who want to come out here.Then they demand it back knowing that the worker will struggle to meet his debts while not wanting to come home empty handed.

It's definately time that these 'middle men' were cut out of the equation and there should be UAE government offices or agencies in those countries with official guidelines who deal with getting people over here, visas etc without the workers incurring huge debts.

11 January, 2006 09:51  
Blogger Balushi said...

@ DR, wasta is an entity or a thing used to get a push, for eg to get a job, get a drivers license etc etc

but to get a salary on time you dont need wasta you need your RIGHTS.

Oh i am still working on that website

11 January, 2006 11:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all about priorities, it takes less than a year to put up a 50 story skyscraper, but 6 months to pay a labourer his dues, see the anomaly?

Regardless what Al kaaabi does its all spin, or sand in your eyes, the reality is labour is cheap and plentiful, and the locals only know that too well.

What keeps them ion favour is this dexterity in the use of medias to promote values that actually appeal to the civilised but have no foothold here or in the subcontinent where abuse and exploitation is the norm.

11 January, 2006 13:14  
Blogger Destitute Rebel said...

@baluchi - Its good to see that you are putting an effort into exposing the non payment by making a website - i suggest you start by buying the domain before someone beats you to it.

11 January, 2006 14:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The UAE government claims that this is a "free market" and so prices cannot be fixed. Why not apply the same freedom to the labour market? Why restrict movement? Isn't this hypocrisy??

11 January, 2006 15:14  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

anon, just above, I agree that lack of labor mobility is the key. About the free market rhetoric, it doesn't match the reality in the labor market, but not just the labor market.

11 January, 2006 17:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its free market with respect to anything to do with prices of goods or accomodation.

However as far as labour mobility or telecom services are concerned, by no stretch of imagination do we have anythign close to a free market

11 January, 2006 20:55  
Blogger archer14 said...

With 60% of letters to the editors in GN being of the "name withheld" category (everyday) when most of them aren't even complaints, what is the real purpose of this website? If it's about creating awareness, then the author should realise that most people here are of the "Oh, so sad...anyway,..." type.
Let's hope this destined-for-doom project does make it to some newspaper.

11 January, 2006 20:58  
Blogger secretdubai said...

With 60% of letters to the editors in GN being of the "name withheld" category (everyday) when most of them aren't even complaints

Yes - it's odd that. I once wrote a letter to GN in my real name, and they published it "name withheld". I never requested anonymity, and it wasn't a particularly controversial subject.

11 January, 2006 21:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a fact that the treatment of laborers in this country is close slavery. As we all know this country survives on cheap foriegn labour. I would consider it a great step forward (ie. a movement from developing towards developed) if country gave equal rights to laborers, indeed all.

On a lighter note, why Oscar Wilde?

11 January, 2006 22:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I donno why always picturing Pyramids when looking at the construction sites... I think analogy's hidden in the word "SLAVE" not "CIVILISATION".

50 years down the line, all these would be remembered as Singapore copycat project. Well, all the islands would be washed off by then unless they close Persian Gulf and make it a big lake!!

12 January, 2006 03:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asslamu Alaikum

We would like to inform you of a unique and creative advertising opportunity available for Muslim websites. Please visit the newly launched for more information.

12 January, 2006 04:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can i use this blog to conduct an informal survey of salaries in the UAE?

Mine is AED 12,600 with no other benefits.

12 January, 2006 14:03  
Blogger Balushi said...

@DR, Buddy i dont have the money yet to start my web.

12 January, 2006 14:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

finally someone in the uae grows a conscience..i do hope something positive comes off of the efforts of the m-wasta site.

I cannot comprehend how this country expects to be recognised as a modern and developed nation if it does not revamp its outdated position on labour and related issues. With a rapidly rising cost of living, increased influx of foreign workers, massive development projects and a growing presence in the world, the uae, and especially dubai, has to focus on dealing fairly with these issues. Finish the system of blue collar slavery (visa mafias) and white collar slavery (the ban & NOC system).

12 January, 2006 14:15  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Yes - it's odd that. I once wrote a letter to GN in my real name, and they published it "name withheld".

They probably guessed that Secret Dubai was not your real name. ;)

12 January, 2006 14:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

she said she sent it in her REAL NAME not secret dubai obviously, silly.

12 January, 2006 14:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'She'? So SD is a she...hmm..didn't quite picture that one. As for GN bit, well that crappy organization works in weird for KT, well let's not even open that can of worms.

12 January, 2006 17:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a load of old bung!

This mafiwasta site is a waste of time and a waste of space.

Although the intention is good, however the implementation of the ideas has as much credibility as an empty suitcase.

I'll start with their homepage where they are translating the word wasta:
"WASTA : Gulf Arabic. Noun. A man of power and influence."
This is not so as the word Wasta is not strictly Gulf Arabic but all over the ME.
The word derives from a combination of :
1- Wasat which means: The middle
2- Tawasata which means literarily to position oneself in the middle or in other words:
to Facilitate.

Moving on to their petition. The petition is addressed to the Ministry of Tourism! Tourism??? What the hell will this help.

What a wasta of time.

12 January, 2006 17:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want a balanced picture have a look at Sinister Paradise written by Mike Jones (google it if you want to read) ....the last comment is from the 'nobody cares for exploited labourers as long as its not them' crowd. I am sure some people are happy to employ a gardener to work each day for 100 - 250 Dhs a month and says things like well they are better off here.

This issue is not only labour flexibility but its about EXPLOITATION which means you are denied basic human rights. To understand exploitation do the following

1. Ask your employer to withold your passport.
2. Ask your employer to hold your wages back for months at a time
3. Get yourself in debt to loan sharks to ensure your stay in the UAE is secure.
4. Trade your accomodation for 10 in a room in Al Quoz.
5. Make your employer super normal profits so his ROI is three times more than those companies in Europe.
6. Work 12 hour shifts

Alternatively you could be the lucky 3rd of 4th generation expat who lives contract to contract not able to call this place home.

All the talk of wasta, addressing a petition to someone etc is irrelevant. Its semantics, one person CAN make a difference, you either do something or you don't. In this case its about raising the issue and bringing pressure to bear.

I for one am encouraged that this issue is being discussed (eg.Dubai Dreams episode 6) and in my own way will try and raise the profile of this issue.

12 January, 2006 19:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, well off, well-meaning Europeans are going into other peoples' countries and telling them how to run things.

Hey that worked out really well with colonization, didn't it?

Listen, there is some degree of exploitation everywhere. This doesn't make it right, or just. Just typical.

From an earnings perspective, I've said it once and I'll say it again, these people have it much better here than back home.

From a labor perspective, it is simply untrue to refer to them as slaves. You want to see slavery? Go talk to a first year investment banker or doctor, both of whom average 14 hour work days.

Actions speak louder than words.
If the well-meaning folks at MafiWasta are genuinely concerned with quick, direct, ATTENTION-GETTING action (from the people and the government), I would advise them to financially sponsor or set up a donation for laborers.

Why would this command attention? Because the rulers of the UAE would be humbled/embarrassed that a group of expats showed more concern and compassion towards the state of the citizens, and take decisive action.

Otherwise, may I recommend they drink a hot cup of STFU , and stop milking the tit of the cow they are trying to slaughter.


(N.B.- There is a glaring factual error under the section titled "Norgay's Story". The GDP per capita of Nepal is not $240 as stated, but $1500 Source: CIA - The World Factbook

13 January, 2006 19:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My salary is 36,000 I work as an administrator in the jumeriah beach development

15 January, 2006 06:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding salary do mean monthly, right? Mine is 13,000/mo with health care and no other benefits. communications industry. I would be curious to hear others as well.

15 January, 2006 14:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said... WHOIS

chez Msr Tiffon
35 Boulevard Vauban
Lille, Lille 59000

Domain name: MAFIWASTA.COM

Administrative Contact:
o'byrne, myles
chez Msr Tiffon
35 Boulevard Vauban
Lille, Lille 59000
Technical Contact:
Technical, PIPEX
Portland Street
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire NG9 2LP
+44.1159170000 Fax: +44.1158770213

Registration Service Provider:
PIPEX Communications Uk Ltd,
This company may be contacted for domain login/passwords,
DNS/Nameserver changes, and general domain support questions.

Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC.
Record last updated on 13-Jan-2005.
Record expires on 13-Jan-2007.
Record created on 13-Jan-2005.

Domain servers in listed order:

17 January, 2006 16:57  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am really fascinating of beauty of Dubai property. The country and its people are doing everything in order to attract new investors. And that's why many people come to Dubai to find a job! And it is very good that state is doing something to protect migrant workers!

26 December, 2007 16:59  

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