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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Employees absent over 7 days to be listed as absconders

DUBAI — 12 Sep.: Employees who absent themselves from work for more than seven consecutive days will be listed as absconders with the Ministry of Labour, if their employers undertake that they are unaware of their whereabouts and there is no legal justification for their absence, according to a ministerial order issued yesterday.

Ministerial Order No. 721 of 2006 issued by the Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi streamlines the procedures for absconding notifications.

It states that employers or firms wishing to report their workers absconding should first deposit a bank guarantee of Dh3,000 for each runaway employee whether the company is exempted from the general bank guarantee rule or not. If a company falls into the category of establishments who pay lumpsum bank guarantees for all their workers, the ministry will then accept the absconding notification without asking for the Dh3,000 additional bank guarantee for each absconding worker. The firms should also fill the designated absconding notification form, stamp it with its seal, and provide a proof that it has already paid any due fines, as well as the bank guarantee.

The order singled out cases in which the absconding notice shall not be registered like: If the labourer under question of the notice filed a labour complaint or a lawsuit; if he/she is absent for legitimate reasons, including sick or delivery leave or annual vacation, and in the period of seven consecutive days, the expiry of leave has not lapsed; if the firm knows the whereabouts of the absconding employee and the ministry’s staff believes that the employee can be summoned to the ministry and questioned before reporting him absconding; if the employee is absent for circumstances or emergency out of his control and fails to notify his employer whether at the end of the  leave or while he is on duty; if the notice is malicious or fake; if the work relation has ended and a three-month period has not lapsed from the date of termination; and if the ministry’s staff was not convinced with the reasons for filing an absconding notification in which case he should raise the matter with the head of the department or the labour office.

Article 5 of the order stipulates that if an employee is caught in a situation in breach of conditions of the work permit and his firm failed to inform the Labour Ministry about his absence from work for over three months, the sponsorship of the employee shall be cancelled, he will be banned, and the firm  will be compelled to pay the value of an air ticket to his home country and the due fine till the date of visa cancellation. The employer shall also be fined Dh10,000 for the delay in correcting the status of his labourer, and his establishment will be demoted to category C. If the firm knows about the place of the absconding labourer and has applied for registering the absconding notification after the three-month period or more from the date of his absconding, the application will be accepted but the company will have to pay the accumulated fines plus Dh10,000 — a violation fine — and the employee’s sponsorship will be cancelled with a one-year ban on working in the UAE.

The Ministry of Labour staff shall refer the absconding notice applications to the Labour Inspection Department for necessary measures against violators — be they employers or employees — if the number of reported absconding individuals at one time or separately is more than 25 per cent of the total workforce in the firm filing these notifications. The notifications shall be referred to the Labour Inspection Department also in cases where the firm is proved to have allowed the labourer to search for jobs or work illegally with other establishments and also if found that the company was bogus and had not given any actual work to the employee after issuing him a work permit.

According to the order, the absconding notice shall not be removed if the ministry found out that the firm was fake. In this case, the ministry will cancel the employee’s sponsorship with a life ban on working in the UAE and will fine Dh10,000 for delay in rectifying its status, besides suspending the firm and all the companies belonging to the same owner or partners. When canceling the absconding notice or apprehending the errant employee, the ministry shall slap him with a one-year ban on working in the country.

Article 12 of the order detailed the procedures in case of malicious and fake absconding notices. It stipulates that if a company misused the procedures of notifying the ministry about absconding employees to avoid fulfilling its obligations towards its staff and paying the due fees, the notification will be regarded as fictitious. If the notification on runaway employees is proved to be malicious or fictitious, the establishment will be compelled to pay Dh10,000 for delay in rectifying its status, and the ministry will suspend the transactions of the said establishment and all other firms belonging to the same owner.

Employers should ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the information officially furnished to the ministry. Failing to do so, the employer will be held responsible and bear the consequences. The order authorised directors of the departments concerned at the ministry’s offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and directors of labour offices across the country to cancel the absconding notifications in specific cases following the legal measures. The order will come into force 15 days from the date of issue.


One-bedroom apartments record highest increase in rents in UAE

DUBAI — 12 Sep.:One-bedroom apartments in the UAE have recorded the highest increase in residential rents, driven mainly by heavy demand from single expatriates migrating to the country, a recent survey says.

An annual research carried out by the Dubai-based property services company, Asteco, shows that one-bedroom apartments in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah saw an average increase in annual rental prices of 29 per cent, 33 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively in comparison to last year. Asteco’s research team compared the 2006 second quarter residential rental prices of one, two and three-bedroom apartments in the three emirates over a 12-month period.

“The majority of the working population in Dubai have been compelled to move to Sharjah due to the unavailability of apartments and high rents in Dubai. This is one of the main reasons why demand for apartments in Sharjah has risen so much, subsequently pushing up rent prices,” said John Allen, Director Consultation, Research and Valuations, of Asteco.

Sharjah’s Al Rolla area recorded the highest increase in one bedroom rents from Dh18,000 in 2005 to Dh 32,000 this year — a jump of approximately 78 per cent.

The study also showed that this year, the highest annual rental increase for one, two and three-bedroom apartments was reported in Sharjah with an average increase of 35 per cent, followed by Abu Dhabi and Dubai at 29 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.

Areas in Dubai commanding the highest annual rent include the much sought after Shaikh Zayed Road, Dubai Marina and The Greens. The average rent for a three-bedroom paid on Shaikh Zayed Road shot up from Dh 120,000 last year to Dh 170,000 this year.

The Greens recorded the highest increase in rents for two and three-bedroom apartments with rents at around Dh125,000  and Dh145,000 — a 74 per cent and 53 per cent increase over last year’s prices, respectively.


Private parking lots in Dubai to be managed by RTA soon

DUBAI — 12 Sep.: Private parking lots in the emirate will soon be managed by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said an RTA official.

Several people had complained that owners of private parking lots in the emirate had again increased the fee arbitrarily.

Engineer Mehdi Ali Redha, Director, Road Fees and Parking, RTA, said, “At present, private parking spaces do not fall under the jurisdiction of the RTA, but plans are afoot to include them in the near future and they will be subject to proper inspections.”

“The way private owners are increasing the parking fees is simply unacceptable. They hiked the fees just three months ago,” said Mohammed Jumani, a resident of Deira. He said there were over 30 slots for cars in the private parking area near the Astoria Hotel and people were finding it hard to cope with hike.

“Three months ago they increased the monthly rent from Dh 150 to Dh 200 and now they have increased it to Dh 300. It’s not justified,” said Jumani. “If we protest, we are told to take the cars away. We cannot do this because there is no space anywhere else,” said another resident of the area.

Ansari, a resident of Al Ghubaiba, said, “Parking is a major problem in the city. Earlier, we used to park our car in the private parking area, but those people took advance from us and ran away. There is no one to keep a check on owners of private parking lots.”

“If we park else where, we are fined. The authorities really need to do something,” he added.

Ali Redha said that the Parking Department is working on the development and maintenance of new parking areas. Talking about the installation of parking machines, he said that they will help ease parking in congested areas. “The revenue generated will be used to develop future projects. We have come a long way and have achieved many milestones, and we look forward to keep improving the parking system in the emirate,” he said.


Indian institute launches inquiry into hazing

Dubai: 12 Sep.:A top Indian institute in Dubai yesterday launched an official inquiry into hazing on its campus.

BITS-Pilani, one of the premier science and technology institutes at the Dubai campus in Knowledge Village, has also posted additional guards to ensure a secure feeling to the first year students who fear retribution from their senior colleagues.

Twelve senior students were suspended after the institute received an official complaint of harassment from its junior students.

The suspended students are not allowed in the campus until a decision on the case is taken by the institute's inquiry committee. The suspended students who were identified by the junior students will also be interrogated.

The hazing incident has also triggered concerns among some parents of junior students.

"I have also received a fax from a worried parent who is contemplating of withdrawing his child from the institute. For me all the 1,200 students are important," said Dr M. Ramachandran, director BITS-Pilani.

"All 12 suspended boys are my students and they will also be given a chance to explain themselves," he added.

The director said that mild and innocent hazing could have been taken place in the past in the campus but "this time it has crossed the line".

"When I learnt what the juniors were subjected to in the name of hazing I could have gone to the police but I did not do that," said Ramachandran.

Junior students who spoke on condition of anonymity to Gulf News said that they have all adopted a wait and watch approach.

Some of them said that additional guards on the campus as well as in the food court gave them a sense of security.

"We are glad that the management has taken this issue seriously. A few juniors were quite afraid to walk freely within the campus after the complaints were lodged against our senior colleagues," said a first year student.

Another first year student said that hazing is part and parcel of college life, but it should not exceed the limits.

"What some of the juniors were made to do was quite vulgar and insane," said the student.


Etisalat blocks website with immoral pictures of women

UAE - 12 Sep.: Unscrupulous amateur photographers have been taking pictures of women in the UAE without their knowledge and posting them on a website for all to see. Hundreds of women have fallen victim to this trap. Apparently, all the photos were taken at the same supermarket and hordes of them are on the website. The site, which also hosts salacious content from Indian movies, invites people to post personal pictures and videos, and claims to have around a million hits a day. "These days it is common for people to make bad use of technology. Keeping that in mind, we have an efficient team of people trained to track and bust technical crimes," said Brigadier Khamis Al Mazeina, Director of Dubai CID, adding that taking secret pictures of women is a serious crime. "In crimes related to the internet such as this one, we can co-ordinate with Eitsalat and try to track down the person who has posted these pictures if we receive complaints from any victims," he added.

The images on the website include those of abaya-clad women, young girls and mothers in body-hugging clothes, short skirts and low-neck blouses. The victims were invariably caught unawares while shopping with either an unbuttoned shirt or while bending down to pick up some product - exposing parts of their body. The site was accessible two days ago, but has since been blocked by Etisalat for carrying content not suited to the culture and social traditions of the country. People who have viewed the pictures expressed both shock and concern that innocent shoppers could be exploited in such an unscrupulous manner. Ibrahim, who said that some of his friends tipped him off about the website, said: "It was simply shocking to see that women are so badly exploited. It is rude to expose faces and mar the reputation of women who are living a decent existence." Another person who visited the website said he was sure the pictures were taken by some sales people, working in the outlet. "It is pretty clear that all the snaps are taken from the same outlet and from a certain point." The matter must be investigated thoroughly and those involved must be caught before any more women fall prey, he added.


Rent cap law is likely to be extended across UAE

Dubai - 12 Sep:The 15 per cent rent cap in Dubai, which expires at the end of the year, will most likely be extended and could be widened to cover other emirates as well, according to a senior official.

“We follow the protocol of the Federal Law.The rent cap may be renewed next year,” Mohammad Al Shaikh, General Secretary of Dubai Rent Committee, told Emirates Today. “At the same time, maybe His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum [VicePresident and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai], will give another order. Or maybe a new law will come into place.” Sheikh Mohammed had issued a decree on November 11, 2005, stating that rents could not be raised by more than 15 per cent until December this year.

Al Shaikh also clarified that 15 per cent is the maximum limit for the rent cap, but it could be scaled down. “Dubai Rent Committee cannot go higher than the 15 per cent cap – this is the maximum limit – we are covered by a law. However, if at all, it may go down,” said Al Shaikh.

The general secretary also believes that the law has been effective and that the Dubai Rent Committee has received no negative feedback on the 15 per cent cap on rents.

However a number of individuals feel the law has been ineffectual in curbing landlord greed, as it has failed to curtail the rampant rise in rents.

Rajive Singh, a resident of Deira, who, until 10 days ago lived in an apartment rented at Dh48,000, says that his landlord was looking for ways to extract a higher rent from him. “He asked me to either move out of the apartment as the building was being converted into a hostel or cover the Dh120,000 fine that was expected from Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) for not converting the building on time,” said Singh.

John Davis, Chief Executive Officer-Middle East, Colliers said: “If it is renewed, people are going to face similar problems regarding rent increases.Though the 15 per cent cap on rent this year was effective, I do not think it was totally effective.

“It did not put downward pressure on rents.” According to Asteco Property Management, soaring costs in Dubai threaten to undermine the government’s strategy of attracting invest ment by spending billions of dollars on transport and other infrastructure, as companies consider less expensive cities in the Middle East to expand their business.

“The majority of people working in Dubai have been compelled to move to Sharjah due to the unavailability of apartments and high rents in Dubai,” said John Allen, Asteco’s Director for Consultation, Research and Valuations, adding that more than 280,000 residential units will be built in the UAE by 2009, to curb further rent increases.

However, Al Shaikh said: “If tenants agree to the rent increase quoted by landlords, there is not much we can do.” Asteco’s research, meanwhile, reveals that while average rents in Sharjah rose the most – 35 per cent – this was followed by a 29 per cent increase in Abu Dhabi.

The average cost of renting an apartment in Dubai, however, soared 25 per cent in the second quarter.

For example, rents for onebedroom apartments increased the most, at 29 per cent, to Dh70,000 compared with the same period last year, while rents for three-bedroom properties rose an average of 19 per cent to as much as Dh170,000, according to Asteco.



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