Workers still wait for unpaid wages

Despite court win, men say company is withholding passports and money owed.

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ABU DHABI // The former employees of a cleaning company who won a court case against their bosses over unpaid salaries, have appealed for help from the Ministry of Labour to recoup backdated wages and the return of their passports.

Abdul Wahab, a Bangladeshi cleaner, was one of 11 men who filed against the company.

On December 17 last year the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance ruled in his favour and ordered the company to pay him Dh5,941, in addition to a plane ticket, severance pay, overtime, accommodation expenses and to return his passport.

“Until now I didn’t get a penny from the court, each month I go to collect the money only to get a new date to come back,” said Mr Wahab, who worked for Perfect General Services for six years earning Dh750 a month.

“The court contacts the company but the company fails to deposit the money. Now I don’t have a valid labour, Emirates ID or health card. They even have my passport.

“I want to go back to my country but the company holds the passport, even though the court ordered it released immediately,” he said.

Without up-to-date documents, Mr Wahab said he is afraid to walk the streets for fear of being stopped by police and arrested.

Of the 10 other former employees who filed cases, three have received payouts as part of the court’s judgment, with seven still waiting.

Sabuj Miah Nurul, 26, was awarded Dh9,200 by the court in March. He received the cash, but the company withheld his passport and is asking him to pay Dh3,200 for them to release it.

“I don’t know where to go after the court decision,” said Mr Nurul, who worked at the company for five years and earned Dh900 a month.

“Back home, my family needed money so I remitted all I had. Now I don’t have any money for such payments.”

Uzzal Nuruddin, 29, worked for seven years at the company. He was awarded Dh9,100 in owed wages and end-of-service benefits.

“I got the money from the court but the company is not cancelling my visa and not giving me back my passport,” said Mr Nuruddin, whose labour and health cards expired eight months ago.

Cleaner Abdul Aziz Munir, 29, opened a case in January after not being paid for six months

“The company is not paying wages for six months. How I can continue to work with them? So I stopped going to work.

“Up to December last year I have a pending salary for six months,” said Mr Munir, who earned Dh825 a month.

When The National contacted Perfect General Services, Mohammed Jamal, a manager, said the cases were "with the court".

“We solved our problem with the labour department,” said Abdul Fattah, another official at the company. “If you have a problem, go to the labour department.”

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and the Ministry of Labour did not respond to requests for comment.

Arman Ullah Chowdhury, labour counsellor at the Bangladesh embassy in Abu Dhabi, said the men could approach the embassy for assistance.

“The mission will go to the Ministry of Labour and the court [as required] on behalf of them to put pressure on the company. We can put up an application in favour of the workers to the court to expedite the dues the workers are entitled to. That’s what we normally do.

“We can even ask the Wage Protection System section at the MoL to provide them accommodation, if the matter is still pending in the court,” Mr Chowdhury said.