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02 June 2023

Police break up Sharjah riot

By Staff and agencies



About 1,500 workers striking over pay in the UAE torched offices and vehicles on Tuesday, the official Wam news agency reported.

"They destroyed office documents, broke windows and torched the first floor of the management building and a number of the cars and buses that belonged to their company," Wam reported citing a police official in Sharjah.

The Wam agency did not give the name of the company.  It said the labourers had demanded a pay increase two weeks ago, but began protests before labour officials concluded talks.

The employer had agreed a pay increase two months ago, Wam said without giving details.

The news agency said the workers had destroyed about 45 cars and 28 buses and "tried to assault" policemen and labour ministry officials who had been at their housing compound.

It said the workers involved in the violence would be tried.

The protest is the most recent in a series of incidents across the UAE. Late last year, labourers vandalised police vehicles and public property in Dubai. A court sentenced 45 Indian construction workers to six months in jail followed by deportation in that case.

One of the largest strikes was in March 2006, when some 2,500 workers at a single construction site walked out in in a row over pay and working conditions, sparking a night of violence that caused damages worth an estimated Dh3.5 million.

Foreigners, from labourers to jet-set executives, comprise more than 85 per cent of the UAE's population of about 4.5 million and are the driving force behind its construction boom.
But the UAE dirham is pegged to the dollar, which means that the amount of money that workers can send to dependents in their home countries has fallen with the decline of the US currency.

The government has revised the labour law to demand that employers pay for migrant workers' travel, employment permits, medical tests and health care. It has also closed down some workers' camps that do not meet health and safety standards.