Friday, February 05, 2010

Sponsorship system under review?

What a massive change it would be if the much criticised employer sponsorship system under which expatriates work and live in the UAE was replaced by a new system.

Well, it could happen according to Gulf News, which reports that the current system is under review.

They're quoting a 'cabinet source' as saying that cabinet is discussing a new employment system for expatriates, proposed by the Ministry of Labour.

On the same subject, a couple of days ago the president of the Emirates Human Rights Authority said that the Ministry of Labour is expected to approve "a new system to replace the sponsorship system" by year's end.

There are no details of what's being discussed and there's been no official comment or confirmation so we'll just have to wait and see.

There's another report on labour conditions in The National today too, which has me confused.

The report says:

"New York University has demanded a sweeping set of rights for workers hired to build its Saadiyat Island campus.

The university and its Abu Dhabi Government partner said workers must be allowed to keep their passports, receive 30 days annual leave and not be left indebted to recruiters. Foreign employees must also receive medical insurance and an airline ticket home each year.

Employers must pay or reimburse fees for requirements such as visas and medical examinations.

Wages will be paid on time by electronic transfer."

Now I know that those things are often not provided by employers, especially in the construction industry, but I thought they were part of the Labour Law anyway, which a quick search seems to confirm. For example:

The maximum prescribed working hours for an adult employee is eight hours per day or forty-eight hours per week.

For every year of service, an employee is entitled to annual leave of not less than the following:
1. Two days leave for every month if his service is more than six months and less than one year.
2. A minimum of thirty days annually, if his service exceeds one year.

At the end of the contract the employer is responsible for the repatriation expenses of the employee to the place of recruitment or to any other place which the two parties have agreed upon.

I found that here.

In addition, keeping passports is illegal, employers have to pay for visas, salaries have to be paid by electronic transfer and Abu Dhabi made providing medical insurance for expat workers obligatory a while ago, didn't they?

It would seem that the 'sweeping set of rights being demanded' are already covered by the law. All it needs is enforcement, and as the government is a partner in the development surely that won't be an issue...

Then to the other bit I don't understand:

"Recruitment specialists said the demands were unrealistic."


So as I read it the developers, NYU and the Abu Dhabi government, are demanding that contractors abide by the law. But recruitment specialists say that's unrealistic.

Not for the first time, I'm left confused.

Gulf News.
The National.


Anonymous said...

Recruitment specialists say that the laws are unrealistic because companies demand that that the worker pay for his ticket, his visa costs and insurance. They hire manpower in hordes: 200-1000 people at a time.

In countries where they are being hired it is illegal for recruiters to charge money. Recruiters say that the AED10,000 or so that they charge goes towards these expenses because large construction corportes do not budget for them to keep their costs down.

In white collar jobs, the company pays for all this and recruiters don't charge the candidate. In blue collar jobs, the companies refuse to pay and recruiters pass on the cost.

Early during my time in the UAE I had come across a man who was brought to the UAE by some agent and abandoned on the airport after the agent made off with his passport and papers. People from his community tried to help for some days then he was in the hospital after an accident... Its not very difficult to track an E-visa once you know the name, nationality and flight details of the man... But the UAE authorities pretended that it was the responsibility of his govt. They could have easily tracked the local sponsor and then the agent...The man was finally sent back home after his embassy took over. He lost that AED10,000 that he paid.

Keefieboy said...

Yes, yes, the law says this and the law says that. But if you have to take a case to the Labour Court (and how many 'blue collar' workers can afford that), you are not allowed to work for anyone else and you have to remain in the UAE until your case is heard.

The Labour Law is admirable, and covers most of the stuff that it should. But the implementation is completely unrealistic for the plaintiffs, and gives all the power to the employers.

Once again, time for a serious, no messing review of how laws are actually applied in the UAE.

John B. Chilton said...

Great post, Seabee. I'm giving you props over at Emirates Economist.

hope said...


was reading ur blog

its nice to know the others point of view in our land

any way

u r wellcome in dubai

its ur contrey

take care

Seabee said...

Thanks JB, people are coming from your blog to read the post already.

Recruitment specialists say that the laws are unrealistic because companies demand that that the worker pay for his ticket, his visa costs and insurance... Recruiters say that the AED10,000 or so that they charge goes towards these expenses because large construction corportes do not budget for them to keep their costs down.

They're not unrealistic at all. There are costs involved in abiding by the law, so they have to be built in to the cost of the project. That's perfectly normal business practice all over the world in every kind of business.

We know that companies do things like charge for visas, keep passports, refuse holiday leave, but the fact is that it's illegal. The sole problem is that governments are not enforcing their own laws.

Anonymous said...

Hi Seebee. It isnt just the blue collar workers whose passport are held. In my company, (one of the top 10)from the level of senior management downwards, our passports are with the Co., under "company policy". This law doesnt seem to have any teeth! Its been around forever and very few take it seriously and neither is it enforced.

Anonymous said...

it's very simple and easy, there are varioues opinions in the country about the rights and obligations and there are diplomatic efforts and struggles happening, most probably the classical Abu Dhabi Fedral Hat versus Dubai Economical Hat in the backstage, otherwise why is it contradicting in one Dubai based media source against another Abu Dhabi media source!

for the passport holding issue I think it is a security about lack of confidence and a winning card game of unforseen events taking place, but definatly has the word dominance in it.