02/11/2010, 00.00
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UAE government releases workers’ rights booklet

Titled ‘The Worker: Rights and Duties’, the booklet is available in six languages. This is first time that the UAE recognises rights for foreign workers, at least if they are legal residents of the country.
Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior of the United Arab Emirates have issued a booklet titled ‘The Worker: Rights and Duties’, available in Arabic, English, Filipino (Tagalog), Persian, Chinese and Urdu, to be distributed in all federal government departments, concerned NGOs, labour accommodations, and media outlets.

It explains the rights and responsibilities of workers based on the principles of justice and freedom. It will make UAE nationals and foreign workers aware of their rights and duties as well as explain how they can get legal redress in case of abuse, harassment and mistreatment.

First and foremost, the booklet seeks to foster and enhance a culture of respect for the law and public order, describing the rights and duties workers have in conformity with the UAE constitution.

Approximately 17 million expatriate workers live in the Gulf region. In Dubai alone, they constitute 80 per cent of the resident population. 

Human Rights Watch has regularly documented abuses, including physical violence, harassment, unpaid wages and human rights violations at the expense of migrant workers.

“I think it’s nice to have things clear and written down,” said Abdulla, professor of political science at the United Arab Emirates University.  Outlining “the rights and responsibilities of both parties, the workers and the companies, is a step forward,” he said.

Inspired by articles 20 and 34 of the UAE constitution, the booklet states that “Society shall esteem work” and “endeavour to ensure that employment is available [. . .]. Legislation must uphold the rights of workers and employers consistent with advanced international standards. [. . .] No person may be subjected to forced labour except in exceptional circumstances provided by the law and in return for compensation.”

The Office of Culture of Respect for Law said that to “enjoy all rights enshrined in international legislations and conventions on human rights in general and labour rights in particular,” workers must be legal residents in the country.

Equally, it noted that workers have the right to profess their faith (Islam and other monotheistic religions) and the right to an interpreter during legal disputes.

In return, workers must respect “the traditions, customs and heritage” of the UAE. Therefore, they shall “not consume drugs, intoxicating drinks or any other unknown substances”, which are illegal.

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