Ninety Indian workers face imprisonment on charges of violence during a strike in Dubai last month even as United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities sought an urgent review of construction workers' salaries.
"Ninety Indian workers have been found to have indulged in violence in last month's strike in Dubai. The UAE authorities are planning strict action against them and they face imprisonment," India's Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmad told IANS.
Last month, around 4,000 workers of a local engineering firm, including Indians, took to the streets demanding better salaries, accommodation and transport services. The protest turned violent near the Jebel Ali port area in Dubai when police tried to stop the workers.
"After investigations, it was found that 159 workers were actually involved in the violence and 90 of them were Indians," Ahmad said.
Dismissing reports that thousands of workers were involved in violence during the strike, he said: "It is a much over-hyped issue by the media."
The ambassador said that most of the workers were willing to return to work after intervention from the officials of the Indian mission and local authorities.
"We partnered with the Dubai police and interviewed many of these workers. They were willing to go back to their workplace. Only 159 workers were actually found to have indulged in violence and the authorities here have evidence against them," Ahmad said.
Meanwhile, the UAE cabinet on Sunday called upon the country's labour ministry to urgently work on proposals on the issue of salaries of workers in the construction sector.
Labour ministry assistant under secretary Humaid bin Deemas was quoted by Emirates News Agency (WAM) as saying that his ministry would meet the companies concerned within the next few days to prepare a study that will seek to ensure that the rights and interest of workers and owners of the companies for which they work were equally protected.
Stating that the authorities were dealing with the issue in accordance with the due process of law, he said that his ministry remained committed to protecting the rights of workers and to the implementation of all related procedures, as well as carrying out inspections of facilities and workplaces for workers.
It was also committed to taking the necessary measures to bring an end to any form of violation of the law in this regard.
The cabinet has directed the labour ministry to come up with a uniform set of standards and specifications for workers' housing facilities to cover all sectors in the UAE.
Bin Deemas said that his ministry wanted all workers to receive their full salaries without any deduction and added that the ministry totally rejected the excuses being given by some companies for their practice of withholding wages.
He also warned workers against indulging in violence or vandalism while making their demands.
"The Ministry of Labour underlines the importance of making a clear distinction between workers demanding their rights in a peaceful manner and the acts of riots and vandalism which have occurred in some cases," Bin Deemas told WAM.
"Riots, damage to public and private property and threats to the country's security and stability will be dealt with through the taking of severe and strict action, in accordance with the laws of the country," he warned, adding that the authorities concerned would not hesitate to respond firmly to such acts and to refer those responsible to the courts.