DUBAI // The Ethiopian government has finished drafting a new labour agreement designed to protect the rights of its citizens who move to the UAE for jobs as domestic workers.
The agreement – to be handed to the UAE Embassy in Addis Ababa – will stipulate a minimum wage, mandatory insurance and outline workers’ rights.
It could also remove within three months a ban on Ethiopians migrating to the UAE for such jobs.
“We are ready to communicate with the UAE,” said Mesganu Arga Moach, the Ethiopian consul general in Dubai. “We are working on the legal structuring. It will be given to the UAE this month.”
In July, Addis Ababa banned domestic workers from applying to work in the UAE until an agreement was drawn up between the two countries to protect them from abusive recruiters and sponsors.
The UAE Embassy in Ethiopia said it was aware the agreement was in its final stages. “We are still waiting to receive it,” said the ambassador, Dr Yousif Eisa Hassan Alsabri. “It is still with the ministry of foreign affairs in Ethiopia.”
He said it would be signed and ratified “some weeks” after it was received but did not give an exact time frame.
The Ethiopian consulate in Dubai said it introduced the temporary freeze on workers moving to the UAE after receiving “five to 10” reports of abuse and unpaid salaries each day.
In August, at the consulate’s request, the UAE stopped issuing visas for domestic and blue-collar workers to Ethiopian nationals.
There have been several recent cases of attempted suicide among Ethiopian maids in the UAE, and a court case is taking place in Abu Dhabi involving an Emirati sponsor accused of torturing her maid to death for “laziness”.
The victim was allegedly whipped and tied up with electrical wire, had boiling water poured over her and pepper rubbed in her eyes. She died after burns became infected.
“It is a very disturbing and sad case,” said Mr Moach. “We want to avoid these kind of things. We are getting a lot of support from the UAE prosecutors. The issue is about abusive sponsors, agencies and individuals, which is why we want to make sure there is a system to protect their rights. Abuse cannot be avoided but with a system, we know they can reach us.
“Ethiopian maids can come back in two to three months time with their rights protected, proper salary and insurance. There will be a minimum salary and insurance will be obligatory. We have checked with other countries for reference. Many have similar problems.”
Mr Moach added that the Ethiopian government had examined the requirements of other countries that send workers to the UAE but will implement a salary scale best suited to its citizens. Training for domestic workers will be an integral part of the system.
“We are preparing the groundwork now,” added Mr Moach. “We will be giving training to domestic workers before coming to the UAE.
“The skills training will inform them of their rights, the nature of the work in the UAE, how to contact missions and everything related.”
The diplomatic mission is also working on ways to include existing workers in the agreement. “This is one of the issues we are negotiating and have to see how they can be incorporated into the system,” said Mr Moach.
Ethiopia will open an embassy in the capital soon to ensure “full diplomatic representation”.
More than 100,000 Ethiopians live in the UAE. Before the ban, it was estimated up to 300 a day were arriving in the Emirates to work as housemaids, security guards and in other blue-collar jobs.