Ministry of Labour tells FNC that expatriate workers must be protected

Humaid bin Deemas, undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, told members of the FNC that employees are free to change jobs once they fullfull their contracts.

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ABU DHABI // Bringing in expatriate labour to be “enslaved” is never permissible, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour has warned.

During a visit from a Federal National Council committee to the ministry on Monday, Humaid bin Deemas told members that the job change system protected the rights of employees and employers.

He said companies could not restrict employees who have fulfilled their contracts from changing jobs, while staff had to respect their two-year contracts.

“We in the UAE are proud of our labour practices,” he said. “Enslaving employees is not acceptable here at all.”

He said the law ensured that employees received their rights before leaving a job, and that expatriates made up 99 per cent of the labour market and needed the Government to protect them.

Backed up by international reports, Mr bin Deemas said the UAE had been doing a good job of this.

He said that while the number of workers in the market had not increased in the past year from four million, the labour market was still stable.

“After the economic crisis, the foreign press said the UAE would lose 35 per cent of its labour,” he said. “But, thankfully, numbers say yes there is no increase but there is stability. Four million are still here, with people leaving and coming. If there was a lot of violations and restrictions on them, people wouldn’t be coming.”

He told the FNC the ministry was working to help workers feel more secure.

But Dr Shaikha Al Ari (UAQ) said that with contracts allowing employees to move from one place to another, Emirati business owners were suffering. She said they bear the cost of bringing in an employee and training them only to later find they are in competition.

Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah) said that in some cases, expatriate workers have returned to buy the Emirati’s company.

“These are cases that have come to us,” he said.

But Mr bin Deemas said the two-year contracts were more than enough and employees had the right to change jobs as they pleased after that.

He said the two-year contract policy was followed in other countries, including Canada and Germany, and that it had even been changed to one year in Saudi Arabia.

“But there is a clause in the law that states that if they will compete with the company, they will be subject to a work ban,” he said. “Some people neglect that part of the law.”

The visit was part of the committee’s long-term study on how the labour market is regulated. The results will be publicly discussed at a future FNC session.