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Cabinet approves manual of General Criteria for Workers' Accommodation

WAM Abu Dhabi, Jun. 8, 2009 (WAM) -- As part of its commitment to protect workers' rights and improve the standards of workers' accommodation in line with international standards, the Cabinet, in a latest initiative, has issued Decision No. 13 of 2009, approving the manual of the General Criteria for the Workers' Accommodations.

With effect from the beginning of September 2009, Municipality departments will not issue any permit for workers' housing across the country, including free zones, unless those facilities fall in accordance with this cabinet decision and any related provisions issued by the Minister of Labour.

The decision stresses the employers' responsibility to provide workers' accommodation commensurate with the international labour standards. Each facility operating in the country should upgrade its current workers' accommodation conditions to comply with these standards. Employers are given a maximum period of five years, commencing on the day the decision comes into force.

As the regulatory guarantor of the resolution, the Ministry of Labour will oversee strict adherence and implementation of the manual's provisions. The Ministry will cooperate with the local and federal authorities, especially the municipalities and civil defence, to develop an effective mechanism to ensure compliance to the provisions, the transitional provisions, incentives and the necessary administrative sanctions.

The new manual offers a comprehensive package of standards to be provided in workers' accommodation complexes. Among these criteria is a directive for accommodation to be situated a safe distance from sources of environmental pollution and noise. Other include meeting the requirements of health and safety standards according to the relevant local authorities and international standards, including building materials, water systems (hot and cold), sewerage, air-conditioning, lighting systems, elevators, emergency exits, fire extinguisher systems and indoor air quality.

Other significant points in the manual include stipulation that accommodation units and floors be built from concrete or brick walls. The buildings should occupy between 60% - 65% of the complex total area; and the remaining area will be allocated for entertainment, parking, yards, walkways and green spaces. Each accommodation complex should have its own mini market and playgrounds.

Touching on a very important aspect, the manual particularly stressed, "To ensure workers' health and safety, each accommodation must include its own medical clinic equipped with full services, with medical practitioners available 24x7 including religious and national holidays." Respecting the need for personal space, "it is essential for the facility owner to assign a minimum of three square metres in each room to accommodate a bed, side table and wardrobe for each worker living in the complex. The number of workers allowed in each room, should not exceed eight to ten, with a commitment to provide individual space for each one of them." Comprehensive standards were mandated for bathroom facilities under approved cleanliness and public safety specifications, including easy access to these facilities. The bathrooms must be located at a distance of up to 100 feet from any bedroom or kitchen. In addition, there must be one bathroom with two toilets for every eight people. In the case of shared bathrooms a single shower area should be provided for every eight people, as well as one laundry for the same number of people.

The manual also states, "The employer should maintain the bathrooms' cleanliness and equip them with full amenities such as soap, mirrors, towels, clothing ties, toilet paper and reservoirs." In compliance with the new standards, each accommodation should have its own clean kitchen conforming to recognised public health standards, as provided by the related authority. The accommodation should have a fully-equipped room including a separate area for rest and watching TV. The use of cooking stoves or washing machines is prohibited inside the bedrooms.

The administration staff, residing inside the compound, should outsource the clothes washing operation to a third party or they should ensure that they provide the resident workers with laundry services in accordance with pre-scheduled timeline and under the supervision of a specific person for this task. Otherwise, they should provide the unit with shared laundry facilities.

The issuance of the Manual of the General Criteria for the Workers' Accommodations is one of a series of proactive initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Labour, following the announcement of the recently launched Wages Protection System (WPS), which stipulates that workers' wages must be transferred through state financial institutions, and "My Salary" service, which allows the worker to report any delay in receiving his salary or deduction from his salary either by free hotline or the ministry website around the clock.