Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi courts have taken stringent action against several employers in the emirate, who violated labour laws, court officials said here on Wednesday.
In some cases, especially in cases of non-payment of wages, the fines reached up to Dh5 million, a senior official from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) said at a press briefing held to highlight the rules and regulations ensuring workers’ rights and welfare.
The courts handled 22 cases of non-payment of wages during the last 15 months, from January 2017 to March 2018, said Hassan Mohammad Al Hammadi, director of the Prosecution Department. Ninety cases of work-related injuries were registered in 2016, which dropped to 48 in 2017, he said.
“The country has put in place tough punishments for those who violate labour laws, which include jail terms and hefty fines,” Al Hammadi said.
He urged workers to approach the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, labour courts or mobile courts of the ADJD in the event of any dispute with their employers.
Thousands of workers have benefited from the mobile courts in the emirate, the official said.
“The Public Prosecution has referred a number of companies to the court for failing to pay wages to workers in violation of the Wages Protection System,” he said.
The Wages Protection System (WPS) launched in 2009 ensures that workers’ salaries are wired through banks or money exchange houses to their bank accounts directly.
Al Hammadi said workers do not have to pay court fees. “They don’t have to worry about court fees. They can just report their grievance to the court that will resolve it at the earliest, possibly by the One-Day Court.”
The ADJD launched the One-Day Court for workers in November last year to ensure quicker verdicts in labour cases and reduce delays. The One-Day Court deals with uncomplicated labour disputes between workers and employers, in which the workers seek claims of less than Dh20,000.
Workers can also register their grievances with mobile courts and court offices in workers’ villages in Musaffah and Al Mafraq, he said.
Al Hammadi said President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a law stipulating working conditions for domestic workers, including a regular weekly off, 30 days of paid annual leave and the right to retain personal documents.
The country’s rules pertaining to workers’ rights stipulate decent work conditions and ensure their social protection and access to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and various courts.
He further said that the department is also in the process of constituting a special Public Prosecution and specialised courts for workers, which will settle their cases fast. Special courts to handle crimes against domestic helps will also be set up at the courts of first instance in the emirate.
Al Hammadi asserted that the country has been striving to enact new laws and revise the existing laws for all categories of workers, including housemaids and helpers, to ensure legal protection of their rights and welfare. The UAE has also opened its service centres in worker-sending countries to help the new recruits understand labour laws and terms of their work contracts before coming to the UAE.
Holding back workers’ passports or Emirates IDs by employers against their will is a legal violation that will attract prosecution. Workers have the right to keep their passports and other documents with them. However, Al Hammadi said, “if a worker wants to keep his documents with his employer for the safety of the documents, that is fine”.