Workers gather in protest against unpaid salaries

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Workers who gathered peacefully this morning in Al Hamra Industrial Area to protest a salary dispute have returned to work.

Around 400 workers from Al Hamad Contracting Company stood silently to block the street near Al Madina Supermarket from around 5.30am to 8.30am, when police arrived.

A 28-year-old steel worker from South India, who earns Dh800 a month, said: “We told them yesterday we would make a strike. We went to the camp boss at 4.30am, and he told us to talk to management. Then we went to block the road at 5am. For four months we have not been given a salary.”

The workers went indoors and remained in their accommodation until the companies agreed to give them their dues. Workers complained that they had their passports taken and were not paid in full for their overtime. Many work 12-hour shifts three days a week.

Al Hamad Contracting Company could not be reached for comment.

Three police vehicles remain on the scene to ensure the strike progresses peacefully. RAK Police were not willing to comment, saying it was a labour dispute.

Several sources at the scene said labour ministry officials had been called in to negotiate with the workers and their companies.

An official from the Ministry of Labour, who asked not to be named, stressed that it was a gathering and not a protest.

When informed, the labour committee investigated reasons for the lack of payment, and reminded the owner of the company that failure to pay wages was illegal.

According to a decree passed by the Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash, any company which exceeds 60 days without paying employees will be fined Dh5,000 per employee.

The company owner said he would pay the overdue amount in three installments, the first by June 23, and the rest within the month, according to the workers committee, who added that all employees have returned to work.

Workers said they stopped work as a last resort after trying to resolve the dispute within the company. Workers said they feared consequences from their company if they approached the Ministry of Labour for help.

“The company rule is, don’t go to the labour office,” said a worker in his 20s from Tamil Nadu, India who did not want to be identified. “If we go to the labour office maybe they will block our passport and for this [reason] all the labourers are afraid. The problem is solved for now but we don’t know what will happen after one month.”

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