News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Labour Ministry studying proposal for minimum wages of workers

DUBAI – May 21:The Ministry of Labour is studying with the authorities concerned, specifying minimum wages for workers in the private sector, confirmed Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi in a recent interview with the Press. He said that the ministry is discussing with the parties concerned their operational costs and the anticipated increases, should the minimum wages be specified.

The ministry will discuss its draft minimum wages with the companies before forwarding it to the official channels.

The need to specify the minimum wages of labourers was a necessary step recommended by human rights activists through ‘Khaleej Times’ last year, following the ministry’s introduction of the mid-day break rule during the two months of July and August, a step that was highly appreciated by them. The humanitarian attitude of the labour ministry towards labourers aiming to protect them from exposure to the blazing sunrays in summer is a great step that reflects the ministry’s tendency to look into the welfare of labourers from a humanitarian perspective.

This decision to specify the mimimum wages is encouraging for labourers, many of whom are being paid the same salaries that they were paid for more than 20 years. They had called on the ministry to specify the minimum wages which would give a boost to the economy in the UAE, and taking into consideration the increasing cost of living worldwide. Article No. 63 of the Federal Labour Law No 8 of 1980 assigned the labour minister to take the initiative.

It quotes: “The minimum rate of remuneration and the cost-of-living allowances payable either generally or in the case of a particular area or occupation shall be fixed by a federal decree on the basis of a proposal made by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and approved by the Council of Ministers.”

The minister shall put forward his proposal for the determination or review of the minimum rate of remuneration after consulting the competent authorities and the occupational organisations of employers and workers. This shall take into account the studies and tables of fluctuations in the cost of living drawn up by the competent authorities in the state, in such a manner that the said minimum rate is sufficient to meet the workers’ basic needs and guarantee their livelihood.

Article 64 quotes: “The minimum rates of remuneration and any amendments thereto shall take effect from the date on which the decree fixing them are published in the Official Gazette.” However, since the inception of the Labour Law, such a step was never taken, and wages in the private sectors were left in the hands of employers under the free market policy followed by the government, which depends on demand and supply. Officials believed that specifying the wages of labourers in particular would help stabilise the sector’s market and curb the phenomena of absconding labourers which has a negative effect, firstly on labourers and secondly on the country’s economy and security.


It’s a club that serves alcohol, not a school

SHARJAH — May 21:The news aired by Ajman Radio Station (Channel 4) last week, alleging that the Sharjah English Private School is opening its doors in the evening to visitors for alcoholic drinks, is found to be baseless.

The reported information passed on to the radio station lacked accuracy for it is a club — adjacent to the school building with a small and low-height fence separating the two facilities — where liquor is sold and served. The Sharjah Educational Zone has acquitted the school of the allegation, saying that the broadcast news, which was aired live, was groundless.

Fawziyya Hassan, Director of the Sharjah Educational Zone, said once she heard the news on the radio, she immediately visited the school after reporting the matter to the police to scrutinise and investigate the matter, which later was proved to be incorrect and baseless. Officials at the Private Education Department paid a similar visit the next day, and discovered the confusion.

The educational zone has stated this in a report it will submit to the senior officials at the Ministry of Education. The liquor and alcoholic drinks are served in a club neighbouring the school building with a small fence separating the two facilities, the report disclosed.

The members of the club are from different foreign communities who join it after paying subscription fees. Residents in the area thought that the club is annexed to the school though there is a big signboard on which the name of the club ‘Wonders’ is fixed. The club also has a playground and it organises sports activities, the report said.

Officials at the Private Education Department said the educational zone had leased the playground from the club years ago and organised inter-private and foreign schools sports tournament.

When the management of the zone came to know that the club had activities which are not in consonance with the educational role of the school, it ordered urgently the shifting of the school, which will move to its new premises on Al Dhaid highway from the next academic year, they said.

The officials, however, reserved to comment on the news which was broadcast by the radio programme and its presenter, saying that it was better for him to lodge a complaint with the police or enquire from the competent educational zone.


No extended mid-day break for workers during summer

Dubai: May 21: Workers will not be given the same four-hour break they enjoyed last year during the UAE's searing summer days, the labour minister has said.

Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Labour Minister, told reporters that he "did not think" he would issue the same ministerial decision, made last year, to halt all outdoor work from 12:30pm to 4:30pm during July and August.

The decision reprieved labourers from the UAE's summer weather, where temperatures soar above 40 degrees, with high humidity.

The labour minister said officials were discussing the issue with the UAE Contractors Association, but did not say what the association was specifically opposed to.

Last year, companies that had to pour large amounts of concrete were exempted from the summer rule.

'Not doing enough'

Although there are no statistics on how many workers are injured or die from heat-related illnesses, they are the most common complaints with onsite nurses, said a doctor who specialises in occupational health.

More than 100 companies were caught flouting last year's ministerial decision to mandatorily give workers a four-hour break from 12.30pm to 4.30pm during the peak summer months of July and August.

A Gulf News investigation at the time found labourers working quietly on construction sites, so they would not be noticed.

In 2005, 39 construction workers in Dubai municipal areas died, more than half of them 22 workers by falling from heights, or after they were hit by falling items.

AA physician who specialises in occupational health told Gulf News he was "persistently concerned" that companies did not do enough to ensure workers did not suffer from heat-related illnesses.



Police enlisted to tackle unethical doctors 

Dubai : May 21:The Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services has asked the police and public prosecution to help it end the unethical practices of some doctors and bring them to justice.

“There are many issues that have come to our attention which have made us realise that we need help to bring [the doctors concerned] to justice,” said Muhsin Basaalah, the Director of Licensing and Specification at the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS).

Over-prescription of medicines, unnecessary surgery and demand for allied services are the three main issues that have become prevalent, he said. These issues had prompted the request for cooperation from the police and the public prosecution.

“We have already set in place a link with the Dubai Public Prosecution and [we] should be meeting this week with the Dubai Police Central Investigation Department,” Basaalah said.

The DOHMS official said that his office currently faced difficulties in proving and prosecuting alleged transgressors.

“We try to investigate, we can audit the patient’s records, and speak with other doctors. But so many times the doctors we have called in have said ‘it is a matter of judgement’,” he said.

It is hoped that the cooperation between the police, public prosecution and DOHMS will formalise the complicated criminal issue, providing a new procedure for medical criminal complaints.

Basaalah said while doctors in the UAE, for the most part, maintained high standards, there were increasing numbers of those who put their own personal gain ahead of the welfare of their patients.

“A patient claimed that he was unnecessarily told to undergo Lasik vision correction surgery.The level of his eyesight was +1, and it is known that those with +1 and below do not require the laser surgery.The complaint is correct and our committee is investigating,” Basaalah said.

With regard to over-prescription of drugs, he said: “Doctors or clinics are linked with pharmacies, or they get commissions from the pharmaceutical companies. So they may be inclined to prescribe more.” Basaalah said doctors had also come to rely on tests to diagnose illness, instead of their own ability. “[Doctors] should not require blood tests or X-rays unless their ability fails them, but they seem to start with the tests instead of end with them.” Matthew Thomas, an Indian draughtsman in Dubai, told Emirates Today: “I have two children.

Both have had coughs in the past month, and of the three times we have taken them to the doctor, we have always been told to get a blood test and chest X-ray. The tests came out clear each time, but they still cost us Dh300.The last time I simply refused and the doctor just gave me a syrup which worked like a charm.”


Four shops gutted by blazing inferno

Dubai - May 21: Dubai Civil Defence battled for nine hours late last night to bring a fire in Umm Ramool under control.

Colonel Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, the head of Dubai Civil Defence, said: “The Operations Department of Dubai Police was informed that a fire had broken out in five big stores in Umm Ramool.

“Four of them were totally destroyed in the fire… The fifth store was partially destroyed.” “No one was injured or killed in the fire, which started at 9pm after all the workers had gone home,” he said.

The four shops that were completely destroyed contained plastic and building materials while the fifth shop contained fabric materials.

“It took us nine hours to bring the fire under control. The fire started in one of the stores and those on either side also caught fire,”Al Matroushi said.

He said he could not comment on the cause of the fire as experts from the Forensic Laboratory of Dubai Police were investigating the matter.


Club confirms arrests in match-fixing sting

Abu Dhabi - May 21:A match-fixing scandal which erupted a day before yesterday’s crucial final round of the UAE Football League matches has been confirmed by the Abu Dhabi-based Al Wahda Club.

News of the scandal was published yesterday by our sister paper, Emarat AlYoum.

Al Wahda, however, said those implicated in the bribery scandal are “solely responsible for what they have done”.

Earlier media reports said two representatives of Al Wahda had been detained after being caught trying to bribe five players of the Sharjah Football Club.

The Al Wahda representatives allegedly offered Sharjah players – the goalkeeper and back four – Dh100,000 each to help Al Wahda win a crucial game scheduled for last night.

The players were allegedly offered Dh50,000 in advance with the remaining Dh50,000 to be handed over after the match.

The five Sharjah players, acting on the instruction of the club’s management, arranged to meet the Al Wahda representatives as part of a sting operation involving Sharjah police.

The Al Wahda representatives were lured to a luxurious coffeeshop at about 7pm on Saturday evening. Audio and photographs of the alleged handover of the bribe were recorded and the two Al Wahda representatives were arrested.

Al Wahda Club yesterday clarified its position in a media statement. The statement claimed individuals at the club attempted to pay some Sharjah players to “help the club win the football game scheduled for May 21”.

It continued: “The club would like to clarify that it does not accept such behaviour, and that those involved have neither any capacity at the club, nor do they represent it.” The statement described the events as “contradicting the principles and values which this club adopts”.

It also asserted: “Al Wahda has top-flight players and administrators who can win games without circumventing rules.” The club has promised to conduct a full investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, Sharjah Football Club’s website yesterday published a photograph which it says is of one of the Al Wahda brokers who presented the bribe to its players.

The site also republished a release it drafted earlier which reads: “The club has experienced in the last two days an incident alien to our own values and traditions, where some brokers tried to bribe our players.

“The club’s players (the keeper and the back four) were offered a bribe by a mediator. We were well-informed with the complete details. We, however, prefer not to be involved in such matters in the media.” In last night’s match, Al Wahda came from 3-1 down to beat Sharjah 6-3 and force a play-off for the title on Friday.


Residents have to wash with bottled water

Sharjah - May 21:Residents of Al Buteena neighbourhood in Sharjah are forced to wash themselves with bottled water since water supplies to their area ran dry five days ago.

Mohammad Al Rayam, 35, said his building had not received water since late last week.

“I have called up the emergency services, and they told me we would not have water for another 10 days at least. But what are we supposed to do, how can we live in that time,” he asked.

Al Rayam, his wife and his brother’s family all share a flat and he said since the water ran out, the family was forced to pay more than Dh70 each day to stay clean and hydrated.

“And what makes it worse, is that the water companies have upped their price to Dh6. Now it is too costly. One shower costs me Dh20,” he said.

Another resident of an older building that houses nine families said getting three children showered and ready for school every day with water that has to be poured out from barrels was unbearable. “You cannot imagine what it is like to wash your children from a bucket.We are never on time for school any more. Everything is so much slower.” Sources said the water short age, which is being witnessed across many Sharjah neighbourhoods, stemmed from low water pressure in the summer months. Older buildings seem to be particularly prone, as they are built on a higher platform and require greater water pressure to fill their rooftop tanks.

It is a continuing problem in the emirate, which is reportedly suffering from rapidly increasing demand that is not yet being met by existing supply and supported by infrastructure.

“We had this problem last year as well… It is making people miserable,”Al Rayam said.

The Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority has reportedly undertaken a number of projects to increase its water production.

Two desalination plants are being built to produce an extra 13 million gallons daily by 2007 while Abu Dhabi is reportedly to provide an additional 10 million gallons every day.


Man gets life term for raping two women

Dubai: May 21: A man who raped two females was sentenced to life imprisonment (25 years) after his victims identified him when the mask he was wearing during the attack fell off.

The 20-year-old UAE national faces an additional two years for theft, ruled the Dubai Court of First Instance.

Law enforcement officers are still searching for six other suspects who were believed to be masked and involved in the attack and are facing rape and theft charges.

"This is one of the rarest rulings and rape cases that has happened until now," said several lawyers in Dubai.

Dubai Public Prosecution charged K.A., among six other suspects, with breaking and entering the house of the two victims, from Sudan and Eritrea, and stealing their belongings after raping them.

In his statement to the public prosecution, the accused denied the charges, but medical investigation proved otherwise.


Hottest day of month tests people's nerves

Al Ain: May 21:Yesterday was the hottest day of the month in most parts of the country with the temperature shooting up to 45C and humidity over 80 per cent.

Although the mercury has not yet officially touched 47C, the highest May temperature in the last 10 years, the country is already suffering from the heat wave coming from the Empty Quarter, a desert bordering the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Conditions were rated as particularly harsh in Al Ain, Liwa and Ras Al Khaimah. A senior meteorologist said the actual heat felt out in the open was around 48C.

Explaining why the actual temperature differs from the one officially reported, Mohammad Ekram Quraishi, a senior forecaster at the UAE Meteorological Authority, said when the actual temperature is coupled with high humidity, the severity of conditions experienced increases three to four degrees.

He said the heat wave would last for two days as the presently weak northwesterly winds would gain more strength. These winds come from the Mediterranean Sea and are much cooler than the hot southeasterly winds coming from the Empty Quarter.

Rajesh Kumar, an Indian expatriate, described the weather as terrible. When he went to collect his children from school, he said the hot winds caused a burning sensation.


"It is unbearable for small children," he said.

Mahboob Illahi, a Pakistani expatriate, said children in particular had been suffering from the heat.

"I have noticed that some private schools do not have proper or sufficient air-conditioning systems particularly in their buses," he said.

He suggested that officials from Al Ain Education Zone inspect the air-conditioning systems on school buses to save children from the sizzling heat.


Monday to be women's day at Jumeirah Beach Park

Dubai: May 21:The day dedicated to women at Jumeirah Beach Park will be shifted from Saturday to Monday with effect from June 1, a Dubai Municipality official said yesterday.

The change came after numerous complaints were made by employees of companies that take Friday and Saturday off, said Esmail Abdul Rahman, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Parks and Horticulture at Dubai Municipality.

"Our policy is to keep the parks open for all on weekends," he said, adding that the change also corresponds to the recently announced shift in weekend for the public sector from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday from September 1.

Dubai Municipality conducted a study of visitors' opinions upon receiving the complaints, to which 72 per cent responded by choosing Monday as their preferred day to be dedicated for female visitors, according to Abdul Rahman.

Lower turnout

He said that despite the lower turnout observed on days dedicated to women, Dubai Municipality had chosen to respect the wishes of women who avoid visiting the beach on mixed gender days.

On days dedicated to women, said Abdul Rahman, the beach park receives very low visitor numbers, as opposed to the rest of the week, when it receives 1,500 to 3,500 visitors.

Omran Qasim Ahli, park supervisor at the Jumeirah beach park claimed the park received approximately 750 visitors on days dedicated to women, 1,500 on Sundays through Wednesdays, 3,800 on Thursdays, and 8,700 on Fridays.

Female visitors to the beach supported the change. One visitor who works at Ski Dubai said she often visited on days dedicated to women to take advantage of the relatively quiet atmosphere and avoid "men that disturbed women".

Rosa Gonzalez, a Cuban national who plays the flute at a Dubai restaurant, supported the shift saying weekend traffic can be avoided on Mondays. "It's a good thing to have a women's day in a Muslim country. You can dress as you like," she added.

Farah Al Akkad, Samar Boutaha and Mayada Zahar all agreed that it was a good thing to happen.

Joanna Serrano, a Filipina flight attendant, said she was not aware of the change, adding that she would visit on any day of the week.

"It doesn't matter to me if there is a women's day but if people are used to having that it should stay."


Premises loss puts question mark over cricket in Dubai

Dubai - May 21: Dubai Cricket, a popular expatriate sport in the UAE, will grind to a halt in Dubai from today.

The Dubai Cricket Council (DCC), which stages nearly 500 matches every year at its headquarters in the Al Jadaf area, will have to vacate the premises tonight. This is in response to the eviction notice given by the Dubai Muncipality last year.

The facility has two fully-grassed grounds, developed with an investment of Dh 800,000, and five sand grounds. Over 2,500 cricketers regularly play the game here.

All tournaments hosted by the DCC will now come to an end. The next season, which is scheduled to start in September, is also in serious doubt, as no other cricket grounds are available.

The popular school tournaments will also come to an end robbing the youngsters of recreational facilities.

Hayat Yar Khan, secretary of the DCC, told Gulf News yesterday: "We have written to the Ruler's Office to allot us some land to build six grounds. All land for sport activities has to be allotted and we are hoping to get a reply soon.

Malcolm Speed, the Chief Executive of the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport's world governing body, expressed his concern over the situation.


----Cricket has been played at the Dubai Cricket Council (DCC) for 16 years.

----The International Cricket Council and Asian Cricket Council has staged international  matches at the venue.

----Every season, over 65 clubs play in over the 500 matches at the DCC.

-- There are more than 2,500 active cricket players in Dubai.

----32 schools take part in inter-schools tournaments each year.

----Nearly 25 teams participate in DCC's corporate tournaments.




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