Workers strike in Dubai for the second time in a month

Thousands of food deliverers went on strike in Dubai this weekend to protest low wages and poor working conditions, a rare occurrence in the city that is the center of trade in the Middle East, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Workers contracted by Deliveroo, a UK app launched to the public last year with Amazon’s support, refused to deliver orders for more than 24 hours, paralyzing the company’s service during the final days of Ramadan.

Videos posted to social media on Sunday show dozens of delivery drivers in company uniforms parked next to their motorcycles in front of a Delvero restaurant.

Other drivers said they didn’t show up for work and refused to log into the app to deliver orders.

The drivers, who organized through social media and online messaging apps, ended their strike early Monday after the company said it would reinstate its previous wage and hour rate.

In a statement, Delvero said it has paused all its decisions and will work with drivers to ensure they are competitively compensated. She added: “Our original intent with this announcement was to propose a more nuanced driver compensation structure, as well as other incentives. Obviously, some of our original intentions were not clear when we listened to the drivers.”

The Ministry of Human Resources and the Dubai Media Office did not respond to The Wall Street Journal’s requests for comment.

Strikes are extremely rare in the UAE. The government bans unions, strikes and public protests.

During the Corona epidemic, the UAE has established itself as a safe and comfortable haven for workers, attracting thousands of millionaires and tech entrepreneurs. But it has been criticized for years, including around Expo 2020, for its treatment of millions of low-paid workers from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Mustafa Qadri, CEO of the human rights group Equidem, said that despite recent reforms to the UAE’s labor law, workers are more likely to be arrested because of the strike.

“If this is how thousands of workers in one of the largest international companies in Dubai are treated, it raises questions about the wider risks of forced labor in the UAE,” Qadri added.

Delvero drivers say they are burdened by the high costs associated with buying and repairing their motorcycles, obtaining and renewing work permits from local authorities and paying their rent and traffic fines.

They also complain about poor health care, despite the risks they take when cycling on Dubai’s highways.

The strike comes amid soaring inflation, with global energy and food prices expected to soar this year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changes the way goods are traded, produced and consumed around the world.

Last week, Delvero decided to reduce the amount it pays drivers in Dubai for each delivery to the equivalent of $2.38 instead of $2.79, and to extend services to 12 hours a day.

This came after the UAE government’s decision to raise fuel prices for the third month in a row in April, putting pressure on drivers.

A Pakistani driver said, “Work 12 hours(s) you get the same pay. We said we are people, not machines, we can’t work 12 hours on the road.”

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