Worker groups law nears

Public Media | June 2004


The right of workers in the UAE to organize will be enshrined in a new law set to be approved by the Cabinet this year, the UAE labor minister said here.

Addressing the 92nd session of the International Labor Conference, Matar Humaid Al Tayer, UAE Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, said the UAE had prepared a draft law which allows the establishment of labor organizations.

"The draft law is now in its final stages," he said.

This step is designed to bring the UAE at par with other Arab countries and to keep pace with international developments in labour relations.

The drafting of a national law allowing the formation of workers groups has been in the pipeline for years and is due to be approved by the Cabinet in 2004.

According to the draft law, trade unions will be limited to UAE citizens. Expatriate workers will be represented through working committees.

During the conference, Al Tayer lauded the objectivity of international labor report that keep track of fundamental principles and rights of workers.

The report this year concentrated on the first principle of the declaration – the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining under the title: "Organisation for social justice".

Al Tayer said: "On behalf of the Council of Labor Ministers of member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, I wish to reiterate the support of GCC member states for the issues mentioned in the report."

Key issues covered in the report included the rights settlement, the principle of democratic development and the objective evaluation of the current approach worldwide towards democracy.

It also dealt with the rise in the rate of approval of basic international labor standards and promotional approaches for the implementation of these rights by enabling the various communities to put them into practice. Al Tayer also thanked the Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) for preparing the report.

The minister sought an objective analysis of the developments witnessed by the GCC states in recent times.

Al Tayer said the international community should take into consideration the achievements of the region regarding labour relations. He cited the serious steps taken by various Gulf countries in strengthening and improving labor representation.

He pointed out that Bahrain enacted a labor organization law in 2002, which led to the establishment of the Bahrain General Labor Union.

The union has elected into office in January this year members of the secretariat with the blessings of international and regional labor unions.

Al Tayer also said Saudi Arabia had taken serious steps toward the implementation of a Cabinet decision to set up labor organizations and committees.

Oman, he added, had also promulgated a new law, which provided for the right to establish labor organizations in all establishments.

Kuwait has a pioneering experience in this regard, had of late enacted and passed Law No. 11 of 2003, which gives staff and workers of both government and oil sectors the right to form labor unions just like their counterparts in the private sector.


Tracing the growth of democratic institutions

• There is an estimated 98-million-strong labor force in the Arab world.

• Unions in the Arab world go back to 1946 when the first trade union was established in Sudan, although it was only in the early 1950s unions began to be established on a larger scale in North Africa before spreading to other Arab states.

• All trade unions in the Arab world are affiliated with the International Federation of Arab Trade Unions.

• Different forms of labor organization now exist in almost every country in the region. Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Mauritania have worker unions.

• In Kuwait there are 14 trade unions with a membership of 50,000.