Indian labourers in UAE still waiting for online safety net

The Indian embassy in the UAE is awaiting a response from the Ministry of Labour regarding an online system that verifies and attests workers' contracts.

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DUBAI // An agreement between the UAE and India to protect blue-collar workers from unscrupulous employers and recruitment agents has yet to come into effect.

The countries formally agreed in April to an online system that would enable the verification and attestation of Indian workers' contracts by the UAE Ministry of Labour and Indian authorities.

The Indian Embassy said it was awaiting a response from the ministry regarding the reasons for the delay.

"We have written a letter to them at least a month ago," said MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador. "But there has been no response."

The ministry did not respond to requests for a comment.

The agreement was signed by Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, and Vayalar Ravi, the Indian minister of overseas affairs, in Abu Dhabi.

The software was developed by Indian authorities to allow UAE workers' contracts and related documents to be attested online.

The system links the Indian missions with the labour ministry and the protector general of emigrants in India so they can check for discrepancies, keep track of violations by employers or recruitment agents and maintain a database of blue-collar workers in the country.

It aims to prevent contract substitution, where workers sign a contract at home then are told to sign another with reduced wages and longer hours when they arrive in the UAE.

Although the government does not stipulate a minimum wage, the Indian government requires workers to be paid at least Dh950 a month. Employers also have to provide food and accommodation.

Companies that supply labour and recruitment agents agree the online system could upset employers who breach labour terms by paying lower wages or providing poor living conditions.

"There could be employers against this online system as there is little room for manipulation and they will have to comply with all the legal requirements," said Johnson Alexander, director of human resources at Dulsco, which outsources manpower to UAE firms.

"It is a good system for good employers. Employers will be constrained to provide the Indian government's stipulated wages and good accommodation.

"This would mean they cannot compromise on salaries, charge for visas or provide unacceptable accommodation."

A recruitment agent said the web-based system, when implemented, would avoid any "double standards".

"This is to make sure what has been promised is given all the way through," said Mohammed Jindran, managing director of Overseas Labour Supply, which has been hiring in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf for the past 33 years.

"With the online system, Indian immigration officials can also see what has been approved by the UAE. There might be companies that don't want to pay the agreed amount and want cheap labour."

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