4 January 2011
DUBAI - In a move to ensure better welfare of its expatriate workforce, India has proposed a revision of minimum monthly wages for various categories of its workers employed in the UAE, Khaleej Times has learnt.
The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has also proposed to categorise the positions occupied by the Indian workers so as to have clarity on the new wage structure which the mission wants to implement early this year. Apart from the wages, the mission also wants to make sure that unskilled and semi-skilled workers are provided with food and accommodation by their employers.
The proposal to revise the minimum wages of Indian workers, mainly the unskilled and semi-skilled ones, comes almost three decades after the existing wages ranging from Dh600 to Dh750 were set as mandatory requirements for securing Indian missions’ attestation for recruitment process.
Confirming the move, Indian Ambassador to the UAE M.K. Lokesh told Khaleej Times that the officials from the Embassy and the Indian Consulate in Dubai were in discussion with employers and employees from different sectors to gather proper data and finalise “reference rates” for minimum wages.
India proposes hike in minimum wages for its workers in UAE
“We are also consulting other embassies and the local authorities in the UAE, especially the Ministry of Labour (MoL). Once we finalise the minimum wages after getting the feedback from all stakeholders, it will have to be implemented when the proposed web-based attestation procedure (WAP) for Indian workers comes into effect. Only then, we will be able to holistically monitor what is offered and what is actually given to workers,” he said.
Once the new rules are implemented, he said, the Indian missions here will not provide attestation for job contracts that do not meet the new wages and benefits. The missions’ attestation is required in the case of group recruitment of unskilled workers from India and when those recruited, even if skilled, have an Emigration Clearance Required (ECR) stamp on their passports.
To obtain the attestation, employers are required to submit a proposal of wages to the diplomatic missions here which should not go below the wages and minimum working and living conditions prescribed by the missions.
Dr K. Elangovan, Counsellor (Community Affairs), said the Embassy wanted to fix the new salaries after studying the wages proposed by employers to the missions and actual wages settled between employers and employees after the contract is made.
“We would like to raise the lower bar because we realised that the root cause of all the problems with workers is a lack of money since the cost of living has gone up. Moreover, the wages in India itself have increased whereas the minimum wages here have not been revised for many years, making it a strong case for review. Our efforts are to consult the stakeholders and then arrive at realistic reference wages,” said Dr Elangovan.
The ambassador said the diplomatic missions so far did not have a medium to know what was actually being paid for the workers. “When the WAP system comes into effect, the system will automatically block applications for attestation if the salaries specified for the workers do not match with what are offered to them,” he said.
He pointed out that the ambitious project can serve the purpose only when the WAP network is linked to the database of the immigration authority in India and that of the labour ministry in the UAE.
In 2008, the Govt of India fixed a minimum wage for its female household service workers in the UAE at Dh1,100 ($300) per month. Besides food and accommodation, a cash deposit of Dhs9, 200, return airfare and a mobile phone were also made mandatory for recruiting Indian maids. It is learnt that these conditions, which helped in drastically reducing complaints by housemaids, will remain unchanged when new minimum wages will be set as housemaids are not governed under the labour laws of the UAE.