Why the GCC doesn't give a shillin' about global furore over their worker rights record
Saudi Arabia has expelled more than 60,000 migrant workers since November as part of its Saudization strategy (File Archive)
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From time to time, the economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are subjected to defamation campaigns concerning the rights of expatriate workers. These usually take a political aspect to put pressure on the countries to compel them to succumb to demands and deals that may not fit with their economic interests at the present.
Isn’t it strange these campaigns typically target landmark projects the GCC countries have embarked on to enhance their economic, cultural and sports conditions?
The malicious campaigns intensify on each occasion when they win bids to host major global events, which requires the development of infrastructure and public utilities to increase the required capacity.
Following the fuss sparked in the media about Qatar’s victory to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, malicious campaigns were launched that also targeted the UAE, which has always respected the rights of expatriate workers and provided them with care and attention in many fields, especially health care and ensuring their basic rights.
Recently, an unfair campaign was launched with regard to the implementation of some global cultural projects, noting that work on these projects and other ones started a few years ago. The campaign has taken on a hostile aspect because of the UAE’s growing economic role and after it embraced an approach to diversify its international relations to create a balance that in the main reflects its interests.
This campaign has not been well-received for the simple reason that expatriate workers in the country enjoy many rights and living standards in general, and also the overwhelming majority of them believe that their rights are protected in a country that provides them with decent livelihoods.
Furthermore, the UAE legalised and allowed local organisations to defend the interests of expatriate labourers, particularly human rights committees at the Ministry of Interior and Dubai police - a move that has contributed to protecting the rights of workers whenever violations are committed by their employers.
Apart from the economic rights of workers, the GCC countries extend attention to foreign workers’ humanitarian conditions, and also have taken exceptional measures related to banning work during the midday in summer. Dozens of companies were penalised for failing to abide by the rule.
GCC states also issued resolutions that oblige companies to transport their workers in vehicles to protect them from weather fluctuations. Many workers were honoured and given special attention at the highest levels, and dozens were sent for medical treatment abroad at the expense of the country or donors.
Once the workers end their services, the GCC states make sure that they get all their rights and dues. The states sometimes show tolerance towards issues that directly affect their security, such as allowing residency law violators and illegal infiltrators to leave without punishment, and of a kind that cannot be taken by countries that launch libelous campaigns against the GCC.
Among the thousands of companies, there have certainly been some violations, as is the case in all countries across the world. However, when these are discovered or complaints are lodged against any company, they will be subject to legal liability and enforcement of law by giving back the rights of workers along with compensations for the damage caused by these companies.
Consequently, the GCC will continue to improve the work environment, but away from the pressures applied on them. It will be done by way of fair procedures that ensure worker rights.
This is happening even with the knowledge that some international organisations, such as the IMF, contribute indirectly to these pressures. The IMF still rejects rating GCC countries among the first group of countries in terms of development under the pretext of workers’ rights or human rights. This is so even when the GCC shares the highest rankings on development indices such as per capita income.
By Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi
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