May 23, 2006
Dubai Glitter - Union troubles
While not having much substantive to add, I thought that before this aged too much, that some attention should be brought to a recent FT article on on unions, entitled "Union troubles start to emerge from Dubai's glittering facades' published 19 May.
The article covers material that we here at Aqoul have touched upon, effectively the signs that the impoverished sub Con workers who make up the spine of the vast construction site that is Dubai are finally starting to crack under the pressure of low wages, rising costs, and just plain near slavery conditions.
The article bears a quick reading, as well as pondering whether UAE aspirations (to US FTA, to other goodies) will force change. I would bet that the government takes a bail out angle. After all, among the drivers of the last few weeks of unrest has been that labourers have been crushed between escalating housing and general living costs, and low wages.
An obvious Dubai type solution is to have the Emirate provide mass worker housing somewhere, allowing companies to externalise housing costs (or continue to do so to be more accurate).
Part of the usual indirect and obscure subsidy approach the Emirates have grown to love. Might even be an efficient solution.
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Secret Dubai linked a Gulf News article to that effect, just recently, involving a government proposal to create "worker cities". The focus in the article was mainly on cutting out the predatory-middleman/recruiter/sponsor element of the current labor system, but I wouldn't be surprised if housing wasn't a part of it.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at May 24, 2006 01:42 AM
Housing is indeed a part of it. Government-built worker cities would house thousands of laborers in what I hope are decent conditions. Certainly can't be worse than where they stay now, anyway. The first one just got completed in Abu Dhabi, and there are plans for more, including in Dubai.
I strongly support the idea because it means the government is directly responsible for workers' housing conditions (in terms of providing basic minimum standards) and cannot blame the maltreatment of workers on anonymous companies it claims not to know anything about.
As for the striking workers mentioned in the FT article, that story has moved on.
Posted by: dubaiwalla at May 24, 2006 02:38 AM