Labour law awareness campaigns to soon target UAE employers, minister says

The Know Your Rights campaign targeting workers will soon be expanded to employers, the UAE's Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation has said.

Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, took the Know Your Rights message to Mussaffah and urged workers there to learn and foster a sense of harmony. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Employers will soon be targeted in a campaign to improve their relationships with workers after more stringent labour laws took effect this year.

Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, made the comments to a group of 400 workers at an Abu Dhabi labour camp while launching the second phase of the Know Your Rights campaign.

The spreading of knowledge about labour laws will help establish harmonious relationships between workers and employers and encourage productivity, he said, speaking at the International City Abu Dhabi camp in Mussaffah on Wednesday.

The campaign aimed to educate workers residing in, or arriving to, the UAE about the newly-launched decrees, and inform them of their rights and obligations regarding their employers, said Mr Ghobash.

Aside from the campaign, labourers will be told about their rights at activities and events held at camps and work sites throughout the year “to positively reach and maintain a stable labour market”.

In February, Mr Ghobash had introduced guides to teach workers arriving in the UAE about their employment rights, during an event at Dubai International Airport. The stricter labour rules had come into force on January 1, intended to strengthen oversight of employment agreements for migrant workers.

The reforms focused on improving transparency of job terms and employment contracts, spelling out how contracts can be terminated, and making it easier for workers to switch employers.

A stable labour environment and clearly defined relationships between employers and workers would produce a more stable workforce and stronger economy, Mr Ghobash said.

“The UAE is committed to providing all means of protection to workers’ rights while ensuring employers’ interests are being met,” he said. “Therefore, the Government approved the new decrees, which aim to promote a balanced and productive working relationship between both ends that had been bonded by a unified standard labour contracts.”

During the event, workers were divided into four groups in the ICAD sports hall and listened to instructors, who explained to them their rights and distributed the booklets, printed in several languages.

Instructors answered many questions raised by workers about their contracts, disputes and switching jobs.

Piux Uwelhuawe, from Nigeria, recently arrived in the UAE to work as a taxi driver. Before the event, he was not aware that he was entitled to keeping his personal identification documents with him at all times.

“I was partially aware of my rights, but now I know that after my documents are processed for an Emirates ID, I will have my passport back. You hear conflicting stories from other workers about the law, but now I know what to expect,” he said.

One of those briefing the workers was Ali Rashid, a senior administrator at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

“They had all sorts of questions, but I explained to them that they should honour their obligations as outlined in their contract and that their employer should also honour his or her obligations, including the payment of wages in full and on time.

“If that doesn’t happen, then their rights are protected by UAE Labour Law and regulations, and we are here to help educate to avoid and resolve disputes if they happen.”

Guides have been printed in 11 languages – Arabic, English, Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Farsi, Sinhalese, Chinese, Nepalese, Tamil and Bengali. They cover areas including how to approach labour disputes and specific instructions on how to move to a new employer.

Mr Ghobash said that a team of experts will be hired to evaluate the success of the awareness campaign.