DUBAI (AFP) — Thousands of migrant builders in Dubai remained on strike on Wednesday, including many at the world's tallest tower, the emirate's construction giant Arabtec acknowledged.
"The situation has not changed and the workers are still on strike," Arabtec spokesman Ammar Tuqan told AFP when asked about the status of the firm's 34,000 staff.
He declined to go into further details but told the Dubai state-owned daily Emarat Al-Youm that only "around 1,500 Arabtec staff resumed work on Tuesday after a strike now running for nearly two weeks".
The company is "trying to persuade other workers to return to their jobs," Tuqan added.
The paper said that the "whole" of the company's workforce had joined the action for better wages and working conditions.
Burj Dubai is still under construction but it overtook Taiwan's Taipei 101 tower as the world's tallest building when it reached 512 metres (1,533 feet) in June. Its eventual height remains a closely guarded secret.
The skyscraper is being built by a consortium involving Arabtec, Samsung of South Korea and Besix of Belgium.
The booming Gulf city of state of Dubai was hit by a rash of strikes by migrant workers that spread to several construction sites late last month.
Some 4,500 migrant workers, most of them Indian, downed tools in a rare resort to industrial action in the Gulf emirate where strike action is outlawed and trade unions are illegal.
"Some workers are adopting a hardline position demanding an immediate increase in wages," complained Tuqan.
He said the firm was ready to "examine the question at a later date but on condition that staff first returned to work."
Arabtec staff, who are paid an average of 700 dirhams (190 dollars) a month, are demanding an increase of 500 dirhams (136 dollars).
The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it will "urgently" review wages of workers in the construction sector following the wave of strikes.
The labour ministry requires employers to "pay the wages of workers in full and without any cuts for whatever reason," in line with the agreed work contracts, senior ministry official Humaid bin Deemas said.
Burj Dubai is no stranger to industrial action. In March last year, 2,500 labourers rioted at the construction site.
The incident prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch to issue a statement calling on the UAE government to "end abusive labour practices" and describing working conditions as "less than human."
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates had hailed an end to the strike at Burj Dubai on November 1, saying that staff had agreed to resume work after the intervention of a delegation from the labour ministry, the Dubai police and the Indian consulate.
An estimated 700,000 Asians, mostly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, work as construction workers in the UAE, an oil-rich Gulf country experiencing an economic boom where only some 20 percent of the four million population have citizenship.
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