Workers' groups applaud labour regulation goals

Representatives for foreign workers in the UAE say new regulations would put pressure on countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India to amend their own labour laws.

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ABU DHABI // Representatives for foreign workers in the UAE have applauded the country's determination to regulate recruitment from labour-exporting nations.

While it is illegal to charge workers for visas within the UAE, the laws about what happens in host countries remain unclear.

"This is a very positive development," said Azeem Ibrahim, an economic adviser to the Pakistan government.

"I commend the Emirati Government for their efforts. This will put pressure on countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India to amend labour laws from their side."

There are laws in place to prevent unlicensed agents trading in countries that send workers to the UAE, but enforcement of those laws has been problematic.

"It is no secret that these agents mistreat and take advantage of workers," Mr Ibrahim said.

"The UAE is in a good position to put pressure on these countries to reform their laws."

Filipino migrant workers are hired through licensed recruitment agencies in the Philippines that are accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an agency of the Department of Labour and Employment that promotes and monitors overseas employment.

Filipino diplomats and labour officials have also been working with UAE counterparts to address the problems related to contract substitution.

In April 2007, the governments of the UAE and the Philippines assigned a joint committee to draft a standard labour contract. That document is still pending review by a technical panel composed of members from both countries, according to Nasser Munder, the Filipino labour attache in Abu Dhabi.

He said: "It would be good to discipline the erring recruitment agencies here who refuse to co-operate with us when we try to resolve labour disputes among our workers.

"We've been told before of the UAE Government's plans to have recruitment agencies under their direct supervision," he said.

"So we're waiting for the passage of a national legislation to see how these recruitment agencies operate."

Yuri Cipriano, 34, is the vice chairman of Migrante-UAE, an organisation created to protect the rights of Filipino workers overseas.

"I think it's a big step for the UAE Government, with the help of the ILO, to ensure workers' rights are fully protected," he said. "Workers tend to be exploited by unscrupulous recruiters who charge exorbitant placement fees before they are deployed to the UAE."