Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foreign Labor in UAE

Human Rights Watch has sharply criticized the treatment of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates. An excerpt from their report:
"Migrant workers comprise nearly 90 percent of the workforce in the private sector in the UAE. They are denied basic rights such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining...

"Employers routinely deny construction workers their wages. Officials with the UAE Permanent Committee for Labor and Immigration told Human Rights Watch that last year alone, nearly 20,000 workers filed complaints with the government about the non-payment of wages and labor camp conditions.

"Most construction workers secure work in the UAE by taking loans from recruiting agencies in their home country. A typical construction worker uses a large portion of his wages towards repayment of such loans on a monthly basis, and without wages he falls further into debt. The result is virtual debt bondage.

"Death and injury at the workplace are also on the rise. Independent research published in local media found that as many as 880 deaths occurred at construction sites in 2004. These numbers were compiled by surveying embassies of countries that have large number of workers in the UAE. Government figures contrast sharply with these findings, stating that the total number of deaths in 2004 was only 34."

The organization also called upon the United States to insist on fair labor practices before signing a free trade agreement with the UAE. We already insist on non-recognition of the Arab boycott of Israel. This issue is far more important than some sanctions due to a political conflict.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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