UAE Labour Ministry inspectors enforcing a two-month summer ban on midday work at open construction sites have caught 90 contractors in violation of that ban.
Humaid bin Dimas, the ministry's acting undersecretary yesterday said the violators accounted for three per cent of the total 3,700 sites visited by hundreds of inspectors from the Labour Ministry and other government institutions since the ban was enforced on July 1.
Speaking on Abu Dhabi state television, Dimas said the inspections during the first week of the ban was only intended to warn contracting companies against forcing their labourers to work during the ban hours between 12.30pm and 3pm. "Since the ban came into force, we have carried out inspection of 3,700 construction sites… only 90 companies were found violating the ban and this means we have a compliance level of more than 97 per cent… this is good," he said.
"But these violators will not be subject to penalties as we have instructions from the Minister of Labour to carry out informational and educational inspections in the beginning.
"These programmes are intended to educate and warn the contractors against violating the ban… you can say this is an educational period, which will be followed by strict measures to ensure all construction companies respect this ban," he said.
Dimas said the inspectors who have visited construction sites across the UAE distributed leaflets to both the employers and employees urging them to abide by the midday break law.
He said the leaflets in Arabic and English are part of what he called a media campaign that also includes lectures and seminars on the sites and at the ministry.
"We do not want to focus on punishment because our primary aim is to educate and make sure all of them abide by the law… we are not out to look for violators and we are not seeking punishment for the sake of punishment," he said.
"This is an ethical and humanitarian measure, which should be respected… it reflects the strong concern of our leadership in this humanitarian issue."
Besides the midday work ban, which will be enforced through July until August to avert scorching summer heat, the contractors have also been told to provide and comfortable rest places for the workers during the ban hours.
"This is the fourth year that we enforced this ban… but this year differs from the previous years because the employers have also been asked to ensure good, comfortable and healthy rest places for their workers during the ban hours. Those who are caught violating this rule will be treated as full violators and will be subject to the penalties specified by the Ministry of Labour under this law," he said.
According to Dimas, first time violators of the ban would be fined Dh10,000, which will be doubled if the offence is repeated and tripled for the third time.
"We appeal for all companies at open construction sites to abide by this law as a civilised and ethical commitment," he said.
The ministry began enforcing a ban on midday work during summer following a surge in on-site accidents and cases of sunstroke. More than 200,000 workers, mostly Asians, are employed in the UAE's construction sector, one of the largest components of the gross domestic product.