DUBAI, (Reuters) – About 1,500 workers striking over pay in the United Arab Emirates torched offices and vehicles on Tuesday, the official WAM news agency reported.
“They destroyed office documents, broke windows and torched the first floor of the management building and a number of the cars and buses that belonged to their company,” WAM reported citing a police official at the emirate of Sharjah, one of seven members of the UAE federation.
The WAM agency did not give the name of the company.
WAM said the labourers had demanded a pay increase two weeks ago, but began protests before labour officials concluded talks.
The employer had agreed a pay increase two months ago, WAM said without giving details.
The news agency said the workers had destroyed about 45 cars and 28 buses and “tried to assault” policemen and labour ministry officials who had been at their housing compound.
It said the workers involved in the violence would be tried.
The protest was the second reported in the Gulf country since October when migrant labourers vandalised police vehicles and public property in Dubai, a regional trade and tourism hub. A court sentenced 45 Indian construction workers to six months in jail followed by deportation in that case.
The UAE dirham is pegged to the sliding U.S. dollar, forcing many of the country’s army of guest workers to reduce the amount of money they send to dependents in their home countries.
Foreigners, from labourers to jet-set executives, comprise more than 85 percent of the UAE’s population of about 4.5 million and are the driving force behind its construction boom.
Human rights groups have criticised the UAE, saying it turns a blind eye to cases of the non-payment of wages, lack of medical care and sub-standard housing for workers. The UAE bans labour unions.
The government has revised the labour law to demand that employers pay for migrant workers’ travel, employment permits, medical tests and health care. It has also closed down some workers’ camps that do not meet health and safety standards.