Dubai vows protection for Asian labor

Published May 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The Gulf emirate of Dubai, where a construction boom is fuelled by cheap Asian manpower, has drawn up a working plan to protect laborers, the municipality said Tuesday, May 1, in a statement to mark May Day. 

 

It announced an inspection program of worksites and factories to ensure that safety regulations are implemented. May Day itself was being observed as "Occupational Safety Day" by the civic body. 

 

Basic requirements laid down by the municipality call for the use of helmets, masks, protective clothing, gloves and special footwear. A safety engineer has to be present at work sites, where warning signs and fire safety gear are mandatory. 

 

The statement follows a spate of fatal industrial accidents, a common hazard in the oil-rich Gulf. Last month three laborers in Dubai were killed when a concrete wall collapsed on them as they were eating breakfast. Another three Asians died from poisonous gases while cleaning a sewer in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah. 

 

Foreign workers make up an estimated 85 percent of the 3.1 million population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Most are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. 

 

Labor disputes in the UAE, where strikes are illegal, number as high as 25,000 cases a year, according to official figures. From next week, a bank guarantee system is to be imposed on employers to ensure salaries and benefits are paid. 

 

In another effort to improve conditions, companies were ordered from April 1 to use buses to transport workers rather than packed lorries with barred open windows resembling cattle trucks that were a common sight on Dubai's roads. 

 

The Geneva-based International Labor Organization announced last week that more than 1.3 million workers a year, or 3,300 a day, die from accidents or work-related illnesses. It criticized the tendency of employers and governments to neglect safety. — (AFP, Dubai) 

 

© Agence France Presse 2001

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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