Right to strike?


Source:  www.kippreport.com

As taxi drivers for one company in Abu Dhabi stage a mass protest, a labour camp in Dubai also downs tools.

The week began with news that taxi drivers at one company in Abu Dhabi have staged a strike; now, in an unrelated incident, labourers at a Dubai camp have also downed tools. After the taxi driver unrest in Sharjah, are we entering an unprecedented phase of industrial action in the UAE?

Taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi were in labour court on Tuesday trying to fight the new contract imposed by their employer. Tawasul has provided the drivers with new agreements and will not let them drive until the agreements are signed, but many drivers argue the new contracts will cut their income by up to a quarter. Hundreds of them staged two days of protests at the company headquarters, and are now hoping a judge will break the deadlock. The company says it will sack any driver who does not sign the agreement, and has already served five termination letters including one to the man who will represent the drivers in court.

Now, Associated Press reports (we read it here on Maktoob) that workers at a Dubai labour camp are staging a ‘rare’ strike after a clash with security staff. According to the report, riots broke out late on Saturday after “long-standing allegations of mistreatment” by the security guards. Jams HR Solutions, who apparently employ the staff, says a huge amount of damage has been done with 40 buses destroyed and furniture and windows smashed. Some 2,000 workers have since refused to leave for work, and police were still at the site on Monday.

Both actions come just weeks after mass taxi strikes in Sharjah. Any industrial action in the UAE stands out in the news, since the government here has zero tolerance for labour unrest. The question for Kipp is, then, are these just isolated incidents, or could this be a symptom of more widespread discontent among the UAE’s immigrant workers?

If this turns out to be a year of industrial unrest, we could see a government clampdown – ideally on firms that abuse their employees, but possibly on the striking workers themselves. What do you think? Do you support the workers and their right to strike? Can it achieve anything?