Master Plan of Dubai 2006: The Worker Strikes Back

The Master Plan of Burj Dubai Tower and its surroundings is as below.

2006 Burj Dubai Master Plan © 2014 by Şengül Durucu
2006 Burj Dubai Master Plan © 2014 by Şengül Durucu

In late March 2006, a group of workers were discontent with the low salaries and unfair treatment and thus damaging the cars, offices and construction vehicles at the Burj Dubai Tower construction site. The building was expected to be the tallest skyscraper worldwide. This incident caused an estimated loss of a million dollar.

Laborers Riot Over Low Dubai Wages © 2006 by The Associated Press
Laborers Riot Over Low Dubai Wages © 2006 by The Associated Press

The day after the riot, the worker returned to the construction site but refused to work. Numbers of laborers at the Dubai International Airport terminal construction site also joined their strike and refused to work. Negotiation with company officials and the Ministry of Labor was then arranged and the issues were resolved at last.

Special Forces surrounding Labor Camp © 2006 by Oui
Special Forces surrounding Labor Camp © 2006 by Oui
Laborers suppressed by Police © 2006 by Jim Krane
Laborers suppressed by Police © 2006 by Jim Krane

Yet, from the statement from Emaar, one of the property developers, it is observed that they refused to admit the fact that the wages and working condition were unfair and unreasonable. They emphasized the existence of clear guidelines to ensure the contractors to follow proper practice. Their attitude was passive and irresponsible, hoping to shrift the burden to the contractor and the management.

It has revealed a deep-rooted problem of the mistreatment of the migrant workers. In terms of wage, their earning is usually less than $300 a month. Meanwhile, no minimum wage system was implemented to safeguard their reasonable pay. The cheap wages made them attractive to contractors, in which they lower the cost and maximize their profits. This resulted in the drastic labor imbalance in Dubai with approximate 80% of the population as foreigner workers.

Apart from the low wages, sometimes the employers would withhold their salaries. Yet, they received little legal protection or aid, making them unable to seek legal action and maintain the justice. Up to 5000 complaints concerning non-payment of wages were received by the UAE Labour Ministry every year and it reflects the seriousness of the situation.

The living environment is also one of the biggest hardships they had to face. The sites were usually extremely hot and most of them were assigned to live in military style desert camps.  The video ‘Slaves of Dubai’ revealed the poor and unhygienic living environment they live in.

Ridiculous as it may seem, we could not turn a blind eye to the unreasonable treatment they received.  We should not only focus on the affluence of Dubai as a global city and business hub, but also the dark sides of the city. It is inevitable that the foreign workers have countless contributions to the prosperity of Dubai and definitely deserve a fair and reasonable treatment.

Dubai 2006 vs Today © 2012 by Marvel Sarah
Dubai 2006 vs Today © 2012 by Marvel Sarah

Works Cited

Abdul-Ahad, Ghaith. “Inside Dubai’s labour camps.” The Guardian, 10 8, 2008.

Webb, Sam. “The side of Dubai that they dont’s want tourists to see.” Daily Mail, 12 3, 2014.

Slaves of Dubai. Directed by Ben Anderson. Performed by Ben Anderson. 2009.

Sanamshantyaei. “Riot police called to Downtown Dubai as labourers protest over bonuses.” 3 10, 2015.

Associatied Press. “Laboreres riot over low Dubai wages.” NBC News, 3 22, 2006.

Associated Press. “Workers riot at Dubai project to build tallest skyscraper.” USA Today, 3 23, 2006.

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