Guards stay at home over wage demands

Security staff point to ministry decree that they should earn at least Dh2,000 a month - but their employer argues the rule does not apply.

DUBAI - OCTOBER 12,2009 - Workers of Al Jaber Security group staged a protest and remain outside their accomodation in Sonopor Al Qusais Dubai. They protest  for the poor accomodation and not giving them salary increase . ( Paulo Vecina/The National )  *** Local Caption ***  PV Protest 4.jpg
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Dubai // Scores of security guards failed to show up for work yesterday, complaining that they are not being paid the Dh2,000 minimum monthly wage decreed by the Ministry of Interior. Guards from Al Jaber Coin Security staged a small demonstration at their labour camp in Sonapur, demanding the minimum wage, which is being paid to colleagues in other emirates. Their employer says the new rule is not yet applicable in Dubai.

Guards claimed about 500 of their colleagues joined the demonstration. However a company representative said only 66 did not report for work. The security guards protect several Dubai Municipality and Dubai Health Authority installations and other private establishments such as stores and offices. They earn about Dh1,100 (US$300) a month while their colleagues in Abu Dhabi, doing the same job, make about Dh3,400.

"We want an increase of salary because the law gives us this right," one of the guards in Dubai said. A company representative said the demands were unlawful. If the guards did not report for work they would be considered to be in breach of their contracts, he said. "The salary amount was agreed upon in the contract, so to demand an increase in salaries is actually like breaking the contract," he said.

"The management increased the salaries of the security guards in Abu Dhabi because the rules there stipulated the increase while the rules in Dubai are different." About 300 of the company's 3,000 security guards are employed in Dubai, he said. Yesterday's labour action was the first of its kind in the country. Security guards are the only category of expatriate worker who are covered by a legally mandated minimum wage.

In January, the Ministry of Interior announced that expatriate security guards would have to earn at least Dh2,000 a month and Emirati ones Dh6,000 as part of a new accreditation scheme for private security companies. That announcement was the result of a 2006 ministerial decree stipulating that companies that fail to adhere to the new regulations can be penalised. The rule came into force on July 1 and while many security guards in Abu Dhabi and the northern Emirates reportedly received salary increases, their counterparts in Dubai are still waiting for what they say is a much-needed raise.

"This is discrimination," said one guard, who works at the Dubai Health Authority, at the demonstration yesterday. "We are carrying out the same duties and we work for the same company but we are still paid much less." Other security companies confirmed they also had not given their Dubai staff a salary increase. "We have been in contact with Dubai Police at several occasions and they have said that they have not yet applied the rule and so we are not in violation with the law if we do not increase," said a representative from one Dubai-based security company who asked that he not be named.

"We cannot ask our clients to increase the agreed payments if there is no law to increase salaries and we cannot afford to increase the salaries with the current budgets." Other security guards in Dubai are understood to be frustrated with the situation, although they expressed reservations about taking similar action. "I know that there is a federal law stipulating a minimum wage of Dh2,000," said one security guard who earns about Dh800 a month, "but at the same time the management tells us that the rule is not applicable in Dubai. We need to know what exactly is the rule. Nobody seems to know."

The guards from Al Jaber Coin Security said they would continue their protest until their demands were met. The Ministry of Interior and Dubai Police were not available for comment.