Riot police called to halt workers’ strike in Downtown Dubai

The Ministry of Labour said the workers wanted to be paid four hours’ wages for working two hours’ overtime or have an increase in their salaries.

Lt Col Sultan Al Jammal, of the Human Trafficking unit at Dubai Police’s Department of Human Rights, addresses the workers. Courtesy Dubai Police
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DUBAI // Hundreds of workers took to the streets on Tuesday in protest at pay rates for overtime.

The protesters, employed by the Arabic Construction Company on the Fountain Views development behind The Dubai Mall, blocked traffic on Financial Centre Road in Downtown Dubai. Police formed lines to control the demonstration.

Brig Mohammed Al Murr, director general of Dubai Police’s Department of Human Rights, said the issue had been resolved and no one was arrested.

The Ministry of Labour said the workers wanted to be paid four hours’ wages for working two hours’ overtime or have an increase in their salaries.

Issa Al Zarouni of the ministry said: “The problem was not that the company was not paying workers on time, but about the workers’ misunderstanding of how overtime compensation is calculated.”

He said their demand for more overtime pay was unlawful and that the hourly rate of pay was a decision for their employer. Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzaina, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, said the matter had been dealt with by both police and workers in a civilised manner and that the protest was over in less than an hour.

The crowd had dispersed by 10.45am and Gen Al Muzaina said the men had been promised that their demands would be looked into in accordance with the law. He said the heavy police presence was a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the public and of the workers. Sara Khoja, a partner at Clyde & Co, an international law firm, said it was not strictly lawful to strike, and it was unusual and surprising that yesterday’s strike was in such a public place.

“The reality is that every so often, there is a strike. Workers can raise grievances to the Ministry of Labour and can complain collectively,” she said.

“There is a mechanism and protocol for the Ministry of Labour to hear collective grievances and to conciliate between employers and workers.

“The strikes that had taken place before were usually in more remote areas, such as labour camps. It is a potentially criminal offence and can result in prosecution.”

The site’s developer, Emaar, said it took the incident seriously and had drawn it to the attention of the contractors’ senior management to ensure that matters were resolved as soon as possible.

“Emaar works with contracting companies that have a good track record and strong organisational structures,” the company said.

“We have stipulated strict measures in terms of health, safety and worker conditions that comply, not only with government regulations, but also with international standards in the construction industry.”

The Arabian Construction Company was not available for comment.

* Additional reporting by Ramola Talwar Badam