30,000 workers on strike in UAE

Around 30,000 Asian workers, mostly Bangladeshis, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been on strike for the last five days demanding pay hikes, workers said yesterday.

The workers of Arab Tech, a Dubai-based construction company, are pressing for 1200 dirhams (1 dirham= Tk 19.40) for the carpenters and labourers and 1000 dirhams for the helpers, including a two-way air ticket during the contract term.

Presently the carpenters and labourers are drawing only 800 dirhams, while the helpers are getting 650 dirhams, which are too little to survive the rising prices of essentials there, Bangladeshi workers told The Daily Star over the phone.

“According to our job contracts, the company was supposed to pay 700 dirhams a month and four hours’ overtime a day,” said Samir Bala, who joined the company in July 2008 as a carpenter.

Since joining he had no scope for overtime though his salary has been increased to 800 dirhams within about three years.

“After meeting the daily expenses, I have very little to save and send home while the helpers cannot save anything,” added Samir, an expatriate from Gopalganj.

“We told the company manager that we won’t join work until a pay hike is declared,” said carpenter Krishna Sutradhar adding, the manager threatened to send them back home if they continue to abstain from work.

Although the local labour court was informed about the pay hike issue months ago, there is no headway as yet, mentioned Krishna.

“We also went to our embassy in Dubai and placed our demands before an official in writing. The official asked us to join work and assured us that she would look into the matter.”

Without strong protests the authorities would never increase the pay, observed the carpenter.

In 2002, the company hiked the pay by 100 dirhams after a nine-day work abstention, he noted.

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