The UAE has been gradually reforming the rules, regulations and rights of the unskilled workers that are employed by the construction industry over the past year. Among a raft of the new measures introduced were rules that entitled workers to move on to a new employer after two years of service. The latest initiative looks to improve the selection process and will see the country set up training centres, first in India, then Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The move has been welcomed in some quarters as it will mean cutting out private recruitment agencies and allow for clearer assessment of individuals coming to the country for work. On the face of it, it should protect the interests of companies looking to make the most of those two years while whittling away the influence of the agencies.
While the requirement to take training will relate to any worker that qualifies as being ‘unskilled’, it is the construction industry that has been singled-out by the government as it looks to raise standards in the sector. Under the scheme, workers will need to pay 6,000 dirhams to learn skills that will be essential on site and when using equipment. The scheme sounds laudable but is it workable? The chairman of Al Mansouri Construction isn’t convinced.
Amer Al Mansouri thinks that the move will affect hiring conditions and wage levels in the country. The net result he argues will make constructing in the UAE much more expensive and has urged the authorities to speak with the UAE Contractors Association as well as developers and construction companies before taking it further. There is also the concern that to get the numbers required, construction companies will have to fund the training themselves, effectively paying to train the workers twice. Clearly more thought would is necessary and pragmatic.
They could learn a lot from machinery sector here too. Having recently spoken to Paul Floyd of Famco’s ideas on staff training and development, it would seem clear that more can be done not only in the recruitment process but the stage that matters most – when workers are on the job. With laws being introduced that allow freer movement of the workforce in the UAE, companies need to start considering how to hold on to even its least trained workers.
Recruiting can be an expensive process but retention can be invaluable.