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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Labour bus drivers use roads 'as race tracks'

Dubai - Dec. 19: Highways are doubling up as race tracks for bus drivers who bet on the time it takes to drive labourers to work and home again, Gulf News has learned.

In a bid to imitate Formula One races and prove themselves the better drivers, bus drivers are racing each other, sometimes betting, to see who is the fastest.

Spurred on by the labourers to get to their destination quickly, the drivers admit that they are endangering their lives and those of others, but the thrill is just too much, revealed investigations conducted by Gulf News after the bus accident on Shaikh Zayed Road which killed nine and injured 56.

'Most popular'

"In the labour accommodation drivers who get the labourers to their destination the fastest are the most popular and are looked upon as 'good drivers', said an Indian bus driver from the Jebel Ali Labour accommodation.

Drivers believe that this is why accidents happen on the highways.

While the drivers said that they never go over 100 km per hour, the labourers said otherwise. According to the labourers the bus drivers drive 100 to 120 km per hour.

Speaking to Gulf News bus drivers said that the horrific accident that took place last Thursday has made them a bit more cautious.

"For the last couple of days I have been keeping my eyes on the speed limit. I find the labourers in my bus are not in the mood to throw a challenge to other bus drivers," said Ram Singh, an Indian bus driver.

The drivers, as well as the labourers, said that all the precautions taken by them while driving will wear off after a week and they will go back to their racing games again.

"The accident is still fresh in our minds," said a Indian labourer.

The majority of the drivers are experienced, having been driving labourers for 10 to 30 years. According to them they are fully qualified but need to be a bit more disciplined on the roads, especially during wet weather.

"I am sure that the bus driver must have been in a race prior to the accident.

"This is because he hit a bus that was in the second lane, then lost control and as a result skidded, overturned and then rammed into the central reservation," said a Pakistani driver.


Rain unlikely but cloudy days continue

Dubai - Dec. 19: The persistent rain that residents have faced over the past two weeks has finally died out, but weather forecasters predict the UAE will remain cloudy over the next two days.

No rain is expected today but the skies will remain partly cloudy until Thursday, according to the duty forecaster at Dubai International Airport.

On all three days meteorologists are forecasting a minimum temperature in Dubai of about 17C and a maximum of about 20C.

Sharjah and the northern emirates are also expected to be partly cloudy, windy and cold.

The duty forecaster said that no rain was expected for today in any of the emirates, and winds would remain stable at between 15 to 20 knots.


Agreement to end worker exploitation

Abu Dhabi - Dec. 19: The UAE and Pakistan will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday that will help eradicate exploitation of Pakistani workers during recruitment process and guarantee better welfare and benefits.

According to a senior official at the Pakistan Embassy here, Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, will leave for Islamabad on Thursday night and sign the MoU with his counterpart Gulam Sarwar Khan, Pakistan's Federal Minister of Labour and Manpower on Friday.

Dr Shehzad Tahir Thaheem, Community Welfare Attache at the embassy, said the main focus of the agreement will be to regulate Pakistani workers' flow into UAE, with more restricted polices adopted at both ends.

"New terms and conditions will be applied under the MoU to curb fake agreements that have been the main causes for workers' suffering after arriving here and taking up jobs. All the terms and conditions laid down in the agreement are in favour of workers," the diplomat, who will also leave for Islamabad tomorrow to prepare for the signing ceremony.

He said the most important point in the MoU is elimination of illegal trade in manpower. "The MoU's final goal is to dry up the sources of trading in workforce and eradicate abuses of workers by further checking the existence of private recruitment offices and brokerages that exploit workers and take huge amounts of money from them before their recruitment," he added.

Dr Thaheem said once the MoU is signed and implemented, all the doors for unscrupulous recruitment agencies will be closed for exploitation. He said the MoU will block the way for bogus labour contracting companies.

"The MoU includes setting up regulations and restrictions to prevent non-compliance with international criteria on employment and entry of workforce in the UAE. The UAE Ministry of Labour and its offices in UAE approve and attest labour contracts electronically and the worker is informed about its details and contents, his rights and obligations prior to arrival in the UAE," he added.

The diplomat said the agreement defines the role and responsibility of labour exporting countries in raising awareness of prospective workers about the culture, professional ethics, laws and employee-employer work relationship.

Dr Thaheem said the UAE Labour Ministry is preparing a guidebook for incoming workers, containing facts, laws, local culture, work environment and the tradition of the country.

He said the book will be distributed to workers in contracting companies and licensed recruitment agencies - both in UAE and abroad.


Family offers five deer for sale as domestic pets

Dubai - Dec. 19: The best place for a deer is probably a forest. However the taste for more exotic pets means these animals are now for sale in the UAE, and it is perfectly legal.

Residents wishing to have Bambi running around their garden were in luck on Saturday when a family advertised five deer for sale at Dh10,000.

The keeper said many people have already called to make a bid or book a viewing.

There are four females and one male. Lesser offers or attempts to split up the group were met with instant refusal.

According to the director of Al Ain Zoo, Mark Craig, the deer look like Indian Spotted, or Axis, deer - based on the photographs.

"They are quite easy to look after but they need appropriate space, food and water and to be cleaned out regularly," he said.

These are not endangered and are endemic to India. It is the most common deer species in Indian forests and its coat is reddish fawn, marked with white spots and white under-parts.

An official at the Ministry of Environment and Water which handles quarantines and animal permits said keeping deer is not illegal providing that the species is not endangered.

"The deer has to be inspected at the entry point. If it is an endangered species it needs to have papers that the acquisition is legal. If it is not endangered they will also have papers but do not need to keep them with the animal," he said.

Apparently bought at the Sharjah Bird and Animal Market, the deers are aged between 18 months and four years and have been with the family for a while. The cage is large and spacious and food and water are plentifully provided.

According to the Indian man who is showing potential buyers around the residential garden where a large covered cage sits in the grass, the deer are being sold because they have gotten too big.

"Smaller animals are nicer for the children. They are too big now and the family will buy more, but smaller," said the man, who did not know the breed of the deer, only that they were from India.


Two schools and 10 firms found violating labour laws

ABU DHABI — Dec. 19: Two schools and 10 companies in the capital have been found violating labour laws, according to officials.

“Two private schools will be penalised for illegally recruiting teachers without labour cards or Education Ministry permits,” said Obeid Rashid Al Zahmi, Assistant Under-secretary of the Ministry of Labour (MoL).

At the Al Maali International private school, it was found out during inspection that 14 teachers (out of 85) were recruited without labour cards.

The other school was Al Rawafed Private School that recruited 60 teachers (out of 156) illegally.

“The ministry will suspend the code numbers of the two schools until further investigation. The schools’ administration must pay the fines. Also, it would be transferred to the Category B, according to the labour law,” Al Zahmi explained.

The MoL official also said Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi had stressed that the names of firms and schools flouting rules be published in newspapers. The MoL, he asserted, will not allow any firm to violate the labour law.

During the inspection campaign, MoL officials also found out that the Sultan Rashid Al Mazrouei Company had delayed its workers’ wages by about three months.

Al Zahmi said, “The owner of the company has never looked at the labour law and he deducted the fees for the visas, labour card and health check-up from labourers’ financial dues.”

Moreover, the Al Mazrouei company was forcing workers to sign on blank documents to be sure that the workers never leave them, according to Al Zahmi.

The firm will have to pay a fine of Dh10,000 for the breaches. The company’s code at the MoL system will also be suspended for a year and it will relegated to the C Category.

“The company was also signing a contract with a company, Al Qubasi Labourers Co, to bring workers from other countries,” said the MoL’s Assistant Under-secretary.

The inspection team also found last week that five firms delayed the wages of its employees — Electric and Colder Centre (112 labourers), Cimel Electronic Supplies Co based in Abu Dhabi (53 workers), El Nesser Mechanic Workshop, Beni Issa General Transportations and Doom Construction Company.

Another six companies have hired workers illegally. They include Flamenco Cloths Co, Turkey-Haz Trading Co, Winco General Transportations, Abu Dhabi Construction Co, Physiotherapy Arab Centre and Manati Cafeteria.


RTA steps help cut taxi waiting time

DUBAI — Dec. 19: The latest statistics of the Public Transport Agency at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) shows the Reservation and Distribution Section last month dealt with 344,109 phone calls compared to 245,358 calls in October.

The number of reservations last month was 168,955 compared to 142,357 reservations in October, according to official figures.

“The agency has successfully managed to reduce the waiting time of the taxis from 14 minutes to 13 minutes,” said the study.

Ammar bin Tamim, Director of the Dubai Taxi Department at the Public Transport Agency, said, “The Al Sufooh Area – Zone 53 has topped the list with the highest number of requests for taxis in November.”

“The total number of users for the Airport Taxi was 262,108  in November transferred through 131,054 trips compared to 245,647 passengers in October. There was an increase of seven  per cent in the numbers.”

Ammar said that the number of vehicles in the airport section increased from 250 to 259. The number of drivers in the area was 571 out of which 37 were women drivers.



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