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French Version

Dubai workers stage demonstration

Some 400 migrant Asian workers protested at a construction site in Dubai on Tuesday about not being paid on time, a police official and a witness said. "I would not call it a protest. Thank God, we do not allow protests here. It was just workers gathering calmly to ask for their pay," a Dubai police official said. "It is normal, it happens every day."

He said the incident took place in the industrial area of Jebel Ali, some 40 kilometers from Dubai's center, adding that the workers had not been paid for more than a month.

Labor Ministry representatives were called to the scene and the pay issue was resolved, according to the police official. A photo journalist who witnessed the protest estimated the crowd at about 400 and said the men worked for a construction company called Al-Hoda.

He said he and other photographers were interrogated by police and reprimanded for taking pictures.

This was confirmed by the police official. "Yes, we asked them to leave because they always misrepresent the situation," he said.

Unionizing, collective bargaining and protesting are banned in the U.A.E. Authorities have repeatedly warned that they will prosecute and deport all those who demonstrate.

Dubai, the U.A.E.'s fastest growing emirate, has been in the spotlight over abusive labor practices following violent riots in March and April by thousands of Asian construction workers at two high-profile building sites to demand better pay and living conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers mostly from India and Pakistan toil on Dubai's massive construction projects for as little as 600 dirhams ($165) a month and live in special labor camps.

Some are exploited by their employers or labor supply companies that hire them out to subcontractors involved in city projects, according to the Dubai-based Indian Community Welfare Committee.

The U.A.E.'s current labor laws stipulate a minimum wage requirement of 3,000 dirhams ($815) only for the country's nationals, who make up a tiny part of the workforce.

The Labor Ministry is drafting a new law which it says will include a minimum wage requirement for all workers.

Dubai,05 22 2006
Redaction
The Daily Star
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