09 June, 2006

Neglect of Labor Issues Not in Anyone's Interest

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The continuing news about the issues facing laborers are also issues with wider implications for the construction industry as a whole. Beyond protests, my fear is that workers will strike back through secret acts of sabotage. This may begin to plague Dubai construction works in the near future as resolution of laborers' issues drags on and more and more projects reach completion.

Some forumers talk about the economics of not doing things like implementing minimum wages or others measures to improve the conditions of workers. But the UAE has a mature economy and a global reputation to nuture and protect. It's time for labor practices to catch up with the 20th and 21st centuries. Dubai can afford the costs of implementing such policy.


world's kup said...

"dubai CAN afford the costs of implementing such policy" they just don't want to do it.

trailingspouse said...

Perhaps that's why my shower was plumbed back to front at the Marina! LOL

phantom said...

dubai can definately afford it and like world's kup said.. they simply choose not to.. since they have no such impending push from the govt and they can gain greater profits by trodding on the lowest.

MamaDuck said...

We're seeing the backlash already. Until recently it was inconceivable that workers would strike, but we've seen repeated collective action in recent months. And to see the Ministry of Labour weigh in support of the protesting workers, and go so far as to name companies and individuals and threaten sanctions! Well!
Since then, however, there have been incidences of vandalism. Remember the smashing of computers and other equipment on one of the Burj Dubai sites by workers angry at having their wages docked for the time stuck in lengthy queues to clock in? There's no excuse for this collateral vandalism, but I think it may be a sign of things to come, unless the neglect and abuse of the workers is addressed as a matter of priority.

John B. Chilton said...

The recently announced decision to limit low skilled foreign workers to six years residence kills two things: an experienced workforce and a workforce where the individuals aren't concerned about living with the future consequences of its actions.

You don't need to go out your way to wantonly sabotage - indeed, why go to the trouble. But you also don't have a reason to give a hoot about the quality of your work - especially the part that can't be readily detected - either.

If you look at the quality of what was built in the 1970s you have to hope lessons were learned both about workmanship and quality of materials.

John B. Chilton said...

Minimum wage, waste of time.

What is needed is a way to inform low-skill foreign workers of what they are entering into before they agree to come and a way to compel employers to follow through on the terms to which workers agreed. Too often the UAE fails to deliver on either of those.

I have argued in my blog (Emirates Economist) that the best way to solve both these problems is to make it easier for workers to change jobs once they arrive.

An alternative which we have seen announced recently by the government is for the government to promote centralization of foreign recruitment and to have a few firms that specialize in renting workers out to other firms. That alternative seems reasonable to me although it is not the one I would advocate. These labor rental firms would be responsible for paying workers and for providing housing.

Woke said...

I think the impact of secret sabotages and such activities will be minimal considering there will not be a shortage of labourers if a few hundreds decide to strike.
In countries like India and Pakistan, it is quite easy for recruitment agencies to find replacements(their experience and skillset is another matter altogether)in a matter of days.
The real damage would happen on the PR front, which would be the real concern for authorities. To try and make the authorities act based on the humantiarian aspects would be a lot more difficult than telling them that it will hurt Dubai on the economic and political front- to put it bluntly.
The image of Dubai being 'a place to escape and make money' for thousands of workers in poor countries is gradually changing. So much so that an Indian foreign affairs minister urged workers in his country to stay back and be a part of the country's construction boom - though the pay is lesser in India. The living cost is lot lesser, you have the right to protest(in principle) and most importantly you have the choice of finding an alternative job without the fear of getting deported.

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