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UAE - Labour disputes on the rise in Dubai

Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of labour disputes in the emirate of Dubai, according to Judge Abdul Qader Moosa Mohammed, Chief of Preliminary Labour Court at the First Instance Court, Dubai Courts.

He attributes the trend to UAE's and specially Dubai's fast-paced growth as a business hub with regional and international business houses launching their operations in every conceivable business activity. Another factor, according to him, is that a greater number of expatriate workers have chosen to take up assignments in the emirate. Lot of residents and entreprenrus in Sharjah, Ajman and Abu Dhabi ofetn setup business or get work in Dubai. The ease of setting up business in Dubai is another reason

The Labour Court was established on November 9, 2006. Besides Judge Mohammed, there are 10 judges - two Emiratis and eight Egyptians ? in the Labour Court. Explaining the procedures of seeking redressal to labour grievances and dispensation of justice, Judge Mohammed said the legal process begins from the Ministry of Labour (MoL).

"Any worker who is facing problems with his employer, including the payment of dues, should follow the proper legal channels. He submits a complaint to the Disputes Section at the MoL. The officials in the section try to resolve the matter within two weeks during which they call both the parties. If the dispute remains unresolved, the ministry refers the matter to the Labour Court along with its remarks," he said.

Judge Mohammed underscored the fact that unlike the Labour Court's verdict, the Ministry of Labour's decision is not binding on the litigants.

As to the costs involved in the filing of a case at the Labour Court, the judge pointed out, "By virtue of Article 5 of the Labour Law, the labourer and his heirs are exempted from the judicial fees at all the stages of the lawsuit process, and the pronouncement and execution of the verdicts."

"If the court dismisses the case, it may order the labourer to pay the costs of the lawsuit partially or fully as it may deem proper in particular cases," he added.

The grounds for dismissal of case could be many, he said. "For instance, the court can dismiss a case if the labourer has filed a suit against his employer, who is not his sponsor. Or in cases where the labourer has deliberately sued the employer with the intention of extending his stay in the country, because MoL does not cancel the labour card of the worker if there is a legal case pending. The case can also be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence or absence of witnesses to support the allegations of the complainant," Judge Mohammed pointed out.

The Labour Court takes one week from the date of filing of the case to notify the party against which the case has been filed. "If the second party is in Dubai, the notification should happen within one week; and if the second party lives in another emirate, the notification should happen within 10 days. The second party should be notified three days before the hearing date. On the hearing day the second party comes and is expected to have his defence plea prepared in Arabic, a copy of which is handed over to the first party," Judge Mohammed said.

According to Judge Mohammed, in lawsuits related to financial claims up to Dh20,000, the verdict given by the First Instance Labour Court is final and uncontestable.

If the claims exceed Dh20,000, the case can go to the Appeals Court and if the claims are above Dh200,000, the case shall be decided by the Court of Cassation.

In labour cases where the claims are up to Dh100,000 or less, a single-judge bench examines the litigation, but if the claims are above Dh100,000, the case shall be heard by a three-judge bench, he added.

Talking about the grounds for dismissal of employees, Judge Mohammed said that under Article 120 of the Labour Law, the employer may sack the employee without prior notice if he has justification, including arriving late to work, consuming liquor or drugs before or while at work, or if the employee has not completed the probationary period.

Also, committing a disgraceful act or breaching decency rules at the workplace may give the employer a justification to arbitrarily sack the employee. If the labourer assaults the employer, the employer's assistant or a colleague he may be sacked, the judge pointed out.

Judge Mohammed maintained that as of 2007, all the labour cases referred to the court had been settled.

"When a labour case remains pending it is usually for factors beyond our control. Sometimes, it has something to do with the finalisation of technical reports," he clarified.

"Last month, we introduced a new system where the judge tries to settle the litigation amicably between the parties without resorting to the court procedures," he pointed out. (via Khaleej Times)

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