UAE deports 71 Bangladeshi workers
The United Arab Emirates deported 71 Bangladeshi workers on Monday on charges of instigating a strike demanding a pay hike by their employer, a construction company, Arabtec in Dubai.
They arrived in Shahjalal International Airport around 12:30am yesterday by a flight of GMG Airlines, an official at the airport confirmed.
Dubai police arrested the deportees on January 25 following work abstention by around 5,000 migrant workers for over a week. Their demand was a pay hike to 1,200 dirham (1 dirham=Tk 19.40) from the current 650, and two-way air tickets from the company.
The authorities arrested those striking workers who had acted belligerently during the strike in the labour camps of Arabtec, the rest joined work soon after their colleagues' arrest, said Dr Abu Zafar, Bangladesh's consul general in Dubai.
Some workers earlier told The Daily Star that they got no overtime work, although according to the job contracts they were supposed to. They said they could not save and send money home from their regular wages.
Dr Zafar said Arabtec had agreed that the workers would get overtime work when that would be available, and in that case the monthly wage would be 800 dirham.
"As per the law of UAE, any strike is unlawful. Though we tried our best to save them from deportation, we could not help them," Zafar told The Daily Star over the phone on Monday.
The company did not breach the contract in paying the salaries, he said, adding that if the workers had problems, they should have solved it through a dialogue with the employer with the help of the Bangladesh mission in Dubai.
The UAE is the only labour market that is hiring a good number of workers from Bangladesh, and for unlawful activities of some, others cannot suffer, Zafar said.
He said it is a good thing that the Dubai authorities did not bring any criminal charge against these workers, and did not ban their re-entry in the future.
"We cannot keep people here who create disorder," said Col Mohammed al Mur, director general of the General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control of Dubai Police, according to a report published by an Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National on January 27.
"Their presence in the country is dangerous, and therefore we need to take action against them," the colonel added.
Arabtec workers had protested their wages previously as well. In November 2007, about 30,000 Arabtec workers went on a 10-day strike demanding a salary hike, The National reported.