For labour disputes, justice will be swift

The introduction of a new fast-track court safeguards employees and upholds the UAE's values

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., January 6, 2019.  The launch of adjd's new "summary cases court".  Ahmad Al Yassi, Director of Labour Relations, Department of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani
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A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work is the fundamental understanding upon which the UAE has been built. Now, with the introduction of a fast-track labour disputes court, Abu Dhabi has fired another warning shot across the bows of companies that seek to break that contract by cheating low-paid workers. These people are the backbone of a strong economy. It is their work that has transformed the nation’s dreams into the steel-and-concrete realities of its roads, ports, airports and cities.

They have come here in good faith, to work hard in exchange for the opportunity to build better lives. To cheat them is also to cheat the families and entire communities they have left behind, which are reliant upon the remittances they send home. Laws protecting workers' rights have been in place since the earliest days of the federation and have been constantly updated as the country has grown and evolved. The new Summary Cases Court, which will handle straightforward claims, such as an employer withholding a passport or failing to issue health insurance, follows the introduction a year ago of the One Day Labour Court, which aims to resolve other disputes within hours.

In the past, employment cases could drag on for months. The new reforms discourage bad practice by putting employers on notice that justice and punishment for transgressions will be swift. Abu Dhabi Judicial Department's Labour Court Committee is also working hard to raise awareness of rights and responsibilities among both workers and employers. Last month it announced that vulnerable employees denied wages will be given cards to cover food, transport and other costs until legal disputes are resolved.

Such measures are clearly working. Last year the number of labour disputes brought before Abu Dhabi courts fell from 16,897 cases in 2017 to 9,779. If everyone played by the rules, such courts would not be necessary. But it is hugely encouraging that they are being introduced by a government determined to stamp out practices that are illegal, immoral and harmful to the UAE as a land of fairness and opportunity.