Workers stage violent wage protest in UAE


Their nationalities were not disclosed, but similar actions in the past year have usually involved mostly low-paid Asian workers, who form the bulk of hundreds of thousands of foreign construction and unskilled workers in the booming oil-rich Gulf country.

One news report indicated at least some of the protesters were Indians.

The workers went on strike and rioted in their living quarters in the industrial area of Sagaa in Sharjah, which is adjacent to Dubai, Sharjah police chief Brigadier Humaid al-Hudaidi said, quoted by the state WAM news agency.

They set fire to a floor reserved for the management of the accommodation in a bid to "expose more than 20 employees to … choking," he said.

They also stoned and torched dozens of cars and buses in the parking lot, and tried to attack police and labour ministry officials who went to the site, the police chief said.

Hudaidi said the workers had recently put their demand for a wage hike to the labour ministry which negotiated with their employer, but a group of them incited others to strike before receiving a response.

The workers had also received pay rises two months ago, he said.

Hudaidi said an investigation was under way to identify those responsible for the riot. He did not say if any arrests had been made, nor identify the employers, saying only that they are based in a neighbouring emirate, an apparent reference to Dubai.

The online news service said the workers are employed by engineering contractor Drake and Scull. It said workers attributed the action to unpaid wages.

A company spokesperson denied this, saying some workers were unhappy about a minimum 10 percent pay rise announced for employees on Monday as they felt it did not make up for the falling value of the UAE dirham, which is pegged to the dollar, against the Indian rupee.

An AFP photographer saw a damaged company bus near the site where the protest was reported as police cordoned off the road leading to the area.

Asian workers have demonstrated several times in the past year to demand higher wages and better living conditions despite a ban on public protests in the UAE.

Many construction workers earn less than 200 dollars a month and have been further hit by mounting inflation, which reached 9.3 percent in 2006.

The press reported last month that a Dubai court had sentenced 45 Indian construction workers to six months in jail followed by deportation over a violent protest to demand wage increases.


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