Dubai labour unrest continues

A labour strike on Dubai's Burj Dubai construction site has dragged into its second day, as thousands of workers refused to return to work after a night rampage two days ago in which they smashed cars and offices.

    Construction workers are on strike over a labour dispute

    B J Kim, development manager for Samsung Corp, the South Korean conglomerate that is chief contractor on the Burj Dubai, said construction of the skyscraper, due for completion by 2008, was moving ahead,

    Construction was not affected by the labour dispute, in which workers on adjacent towers are asking for better pay and employment conditions.

    The labourers are employed by the Dubai-based firm Al Naboodah Laing O'Rourke.

    Investigators with the Emirates Interior Ministry were embroiled in talks with the striking workers and Al Naboodah managers again on Thursday.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Rashid Bakhit Al Jumairi, a labour investigator, said on Thursday: "They came back to the site but they still refuse to work."

    Workers rights

    Al Jumairi said the labourers were demanding overtime pay, better medical care and humane treatment by foremen. He said Al Naboodah had agreed to some of the demands, but not all. The workers agreed to their employment conditions when they signed the contracts, he said.

    Al Jumairi said: "They have no right to continue this strike, actually."

    The strike illustrates growing
    unrest among foreign workers

    The rare outbreak of violence on Tuesday caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage and illustrated growing unrest among foreign workers who are the linchpin of Dubai's building boom.

    Rampaging workers chased and beat security officers, then broke into offices where they smashed computers and files, witnesses said. They said about two dozen cars and construction machines were wrecked. None of the workers had been arrested, Al Jumairi said.

    Pay

    Pay for the workers ranges from $7.60 per day for a skilled carpenter, with labourers getting $4 per day.

    Strikes in the region have grown increasingly common among the foreigners who form the overwhelming majority of private sector workers in most oil-rich Gulf countries.

    There have been strikes in recent months in Qatar and Oman. In April, Bangladeshis stormed their own embassy in Kuwait, protesting working conditions that human rights activists have denounced as "slave-like".

    Millions of foreign workers have flooded Gulf nations, outweighing the population of citizens in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In Saudi Arabia, foreign workers make up about 21% of the population of more than 26 million, but labour unrest is rare in that tightly controlled country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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