The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘Khaleej

Indian Labourers in Dubai to get a new Code of Standards

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photo credit - limeasia.net

photo credit - limeasia.net

Well we’ve been a little obsessed with the Goldstone Report over here recently, which is all fine and dandy really because it’s kind of a big deal. There’ll be more to come on it but now for something slightly different.

The cause of migrant rights in the Gulf is a long standing one and there has been a lot written recently about the exploitation of migrants and the adverse working conditions under which they labour. For more of a background on the issue, I suggest you visit Mideast Youth as they do a lot of work and have some great information about the issue.

Having lived and worked in the Gulf myself, it’s an issue that I’ve come face to face with on numerous occasions, and the disparity between rights and lives of migrant workers in the Gulf is really quite confronting.

However, it seems changes may be afoot, as Abu Dhabi’s the National reports:

A set of minimum standards covering working and living conditions is to be introduced to protect Indian labourers from exploitation, and companies that breach them face action from the UAE and Indian governments.

In the Emirates, offending employers could be fined, banned from hiring expatriate workers or have their businesses downgraded.

While these changes are being worked out by the Indian and Emirati governments, meaning they will only be enforced on behalf of labourers from Indian (and not labourers from other countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.) it is still an important step forward.

India’s ambassador to the UAE, Talmiz Ahmed, explains that these standards are not focusing on wages, or attempting to implement a minimum wage system, but rather more focused on living conditions:

“You may get good wages, but if you are living in squalid conditions, without air conditioning, eating inferior food or having to do long hours of compulsory overtime, you won’t be happy. So, living and working conditions are as important for me as minimum wages.”

There isn’t any word in the article when exactly these conditions will come into force or, indeed, how stringently they will be enforced. However it seems any implementation this year is unlikely as:

The embassy is looking for a company to prepare the software for the programme in time for it to be presented at the next conference of Indian ambassadors in New Delhi in November.

Mr. Ahmed also notes that increasingly, due to the economic downturn’s adverse effect on Dubai, more Indian labourers are leaving Dubai and heading for Abu Dhabi.

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Written by alexlobov

September 19, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Discrimination against tourists from the Gulf? Say it isn’t so!

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An article from the National (which the Majlis also picked up) made me smile:

Egypt’s ministry of tourism has established a telephone hotline to allow foreign tourists to complain about price discrimination at hotels.

The ministry launched the call-in service on July 15 in response to complaints from Gulf Arab visitors, some of whom say they have been quoted higher rates because of their perceived wealth.

I too have been to Cairo and actually faced the double whammy of discrimination, when people found out I was Australian and later when I mistakenly started speaking Khaleeji Arabic to them (I later learned to convert to Egyptian Arabic in key situations).

A hotel that has asked a guest to pay US$200 (Dh735) on a room that would have gone for $100 could wind up paying 10 times the difference, or $1,000, in penalties to both the guest and the hotel association.

In the most severe or repeated cases, the association can strip a hotel of its licence.

That penalty is peanuts compared to the volume of cash handled by Egypt’s large, international-class hotels. The real concern for hoteliers, said Marwa Salem, the assistant public relations manager for Cairo’s Semiramis Intercontinental, is the hotel’s reputation among high-spending Gulf Arabs. [The National]

Indeed, unfortunately for Khaleeji (mostly Saudi) tourists, and of course the rest of those unlucky shmos who either don’t have the wherewithal or the looks to pass of as Masri at least for a few minutes while negotiating the price of a rug, this only applies to hotels. So you shall continue to overpay at Khan el-Khaleeli, at the qahwa, in the taxi and probably pretty much anywhere else you can think. I like to think of it as a form of income redistribution – I clearly have enough money to enjoy such luxuries as international travel, taxi driver Ahmed (of “teksi ya basha?” fame) clearly needs to feed his family of 11 children living in the poor part of Giza (I kid you not, I had many taxi drivers spend the whole trip wailing about how they have another child being born or their mother-in-law needs an operation or the perceived injustice of the system, maintaining my conversation in Arabic at this point proved difficult and I was reduced to replying with “aywa”, “sa7” and “inshallah” only). So why not spend a few extra Egyptian pounds and allow the man to buy that extra pack of Cleopatras today or that delectable fuul sandwich?

“The pyramids don’t change from year to year. We come here for the films. They show the newest movies, and we don’t have movies in Saudi Arabia,” said Bander al Otaibi, 26, a banker from Riyadh, who was enjoying a fruit drink in the lobby of Cairo’s Intercontinental City Stars on Wednesday afternoon. [The National]

Enjoying “a fruit drink” indeed! Let’s not beat around the bush here, perhaps these Saudis should head down to Bahrain like their brothers from Khober, Dammam and Dhahran do every bloody weekend, and fill the streets with their easily recognisable license plates and terrible driving… and perhaps they can get their newest movies, their “fruit drinks” and whatever other “entertainment” they are seeking… all at a fair (or at least equal) price!

Written by alexlobov

August 5, 2009 at 1:56 pm