Cowboy tradesmen in small ads

A wide range of services are being offered by people without qualifications and no permission to work in the UAE.

ABU DHABI. 1st July 2008. A shopper looks at the customer notice board at the Abela superstore in Abu Dhabi, Tuesday 1st July.  Stephen Lock  /  The National.  *** Local Caption ***  SL-notice-002.jpg
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ABU DHABI // A random check of advertisements in Abu Dhabi and Dubai reveals that a wide range of services - from cooking for children's birthday parties to rewiring houses - are being offered by people without qualifications and no permission to work in the UAE. On Tuesday, the Federal National Council (FNC) expressed concern over the lack of regulations governing services offered by small businesses and illegal "self-employed" workers, particularly those advertising on websites and noticeboards and in print.

Every advertiser contacted by The National yesterday was breaking the law, either by working on a visit visa or working independently, and potentially was putting the customer at risk by offering services for which they were not qualified. A Pakistani man who claimed only "limited" experience in construction in his advertisement agreed, after only a two-minute telephone conversation, to rewire an apartment.

He admitted: "I haven't got a licence - I'm here on a visit visa so I can't get one from the Government." A man from Kerala, India, placed an advertisement offering his services as a commis chef with two years' experience in Indian and Chinese cuisine. When asked whether he would be prepared to cook for up to 25 children, he said: "I am looking more for restaurant work, but that could be interesting.

"It is difficult because I am only on a visit visa. But it's OK, I am working." Questioned further, he admitted he had only one year of experience in the kitchen, primarily in butchery. A North African man advertising his services as a plumber in the Dubai area said he did not have a UAE licence, but had nine years of experience in the industry. He added: "I'm looking for any work I can get. I only got here two weeks ago, so I am still on a visit visa." At the final session of the FNC before a nearly five month recess, Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, and Hamad al Madfa, an FNC member, called for the regulation of classified advertisements.

Mr Madfa highlighted the case of one woman who advertised as a caterer for birthday parties. "She is not licensed, not monitored and does the work from her house," he said. Inspections carried out by the Ministry of Labour on 122,000 properties found 13,107 people breaking the law by running businesses not registered with the ministry. Of equal concern, Mr Madfa said, were registered businesses offering services for which they were not licensed or qualified. One registered cleaning company said it could also fumigate an apartment to rid it of cockroaches. Fumigation is an extremely hazardous profession requiring years of experience.

When asked whether it had the appropriate licence to carry out fumigation, the company said it would "have to find the right paperwork". On Tuesday, Mr Madfa raised concern over a barbershop offering liposuction without a licence. DA, a former beauty consultant contacted by The National, said she used to work at a medical beauty centre that offered liposuction, nose jobs and breast implants - albeit under questionable circumstances.

"The centre was medically certified, however, the owner sometimes brought doctors and nurses from the Syrian branch on visit visas to save money," she said. "Those doctors and nurses were not licensed to practise surgery in the UAE." The centre charged between Dh14,000 (US$3,811) and Dh19,000 for rhinoplasty, and between Dh12,000 and Dh18,000 for liposuction. Breast implants cost between Dh20,000 and Dh24,000.

Another man advertising his services as an electrician in Dubai agreed to help with a plumbing problem, and confirmed he was working in the UAE with a friend while on a visit visa.