Former employees left in limbo after S&K collapse in Dubai

S&K, also known as Smith & Ken, had its licence revoked in June but continued trading until July 21. The closure left more than 80 staff unemployed in Dubai and Los Angeles.

Former employee Amina Ali has found herself penniless and in a legal limbo after S&K collapsed, leaving a salary dispute with the property company unresolved and forcing her to live off the goodwill of friends in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // A former employee of a property company that closed last month has been left homeless, penniless, jobless and unable to leave the country.

The operating licence of S&K, also known as Smith & Ken, was revoked in June but it continued trading until July 21.

The closure left more than 80 staff in Dubai and Los Angeles, California, out of work.

Briton Amina Ali, 27, took a commercial property manager’s job in Dubai in June last year with a basic monthly salary of Dh8,000, 50 per cent commission on transactions, a company car and accommodation.

“I was only paid my Dh8,000 salary once,” she said. “They wanted me to sign a new contract for Dh5,000, but I refused.”

Unable to resolve the dispute, she left S&K in September while owed more than two months’ commission, Dh128,700, and lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

The company then claimed that her Dh5,000 salary for that month was a loan she must repay, and obtained an absconding order that stops her from leaving the country.

The order prevents Ms Ali from going home or finding another job until the issue is resolved with the ministry.

However, S&K’s representatives have left the country, leaving Ms Ali in limbo.

With no money to pay rent, she has given up her Marina apartment and is reliant on friends.

The British embassy has told her she needs to appoint a lawyer to argue her case, but that is difficult without money.

No one from the ministry was available for comment.

“Some days I will eat, others I won’t,” Ms Ali said. “I don’t know where I will be staying some nights. The longest I have been anywhere is a week.”

The Real Estate Regulatory Agency, Dubai Land Department’s regulatory arm, said it received numerous complaints about S&K. A closure notice was ordered on June 14.

Ms Ali has been told her case cannot be resolved without a representative of S&K in Dubai.

Company accounts have either been emptied or frozen. The chief executive is understood to have left the country.

Colleague Hanain Khan, 29, also from the UK, worked as a lettings manager for S&K and was promised a basic monthly salary of Dh5,000, plus 50 per cent in commission on transactions.

“I started work at the same time as Amina. The way she has been treated is shocking,” he said. “Staff turnover was very high, after a year I was the one of the longest serving agents there. There were around 50 people working in Dubai with around 300 properties on the books.”

Regulators are investigating complaints that the company routinely asked tenants to make rent cheques payable to S&K instead of the landlord, and asked property buyers to make cheques payable to the company instead of the seller. Both practices are illegal.

“A lot of landlords still don’t know what has happened and will only find out when they miss a mortgage payment,” Mr Khan said. “One landlord has lost Dh160,000. That is just the start, some will not even be checking their accounts.”

The chartered accountancy Mashal Al Zarooni is the liquidator for all companies in the Dubai Free Zone, but no formal appointment to S&K has yet been made.

S&K said it had no further comment.