Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dubai Labour Court offer Free legal advice for workers

Chief Justice of Dubai Labour Court Jamal Salem Al Jaberi
Pro bono legal advice for low-paid residents is being offered by Dubai Labour Court in a bid to ensure workers’ rights are upheld.The court has launched the Oun initiative, which offers free legal consultations for workers, and it has also set up a one-day court to speed up legal proceedings.

Chief Justice of the Labour Court, judge Jamal Salem Al Jaberi, said that work is under way to provide not only consultations but full, free-of-charge legal services for workers, through another initiative known as Sanad.

Fourteen lawyers volunteered to provide the service and the Chief Justice expects that more will take part in time. “The lawyer who takes a case will have to represent the worker in court, attend hearings, submit defence arguments and give workers consultation,” said Mr Al Jaberi.

The one-day labour court will soon be launched in coordination with the Ministry of Human Recourses and Emiratisation.

Mr Al Jaberi said that the fast-track court will reduce the time it takes for cases to reach a verdict. Last year, the labour court handled 9,000 cases - 4,711 of which were in the first six months of the year. In the first six months of this year it handled 6,895 cases.

“The increase in number is a result of the several initiatives that helped speed up the legal process and make room for more cases to be heard and settled and not because of an increase in disputes between workers and employers,” said Mr Al Jaberi.

“The labour court of first instance at the ministry has been equipped to hear and issue rulings in labour cases [within a day], and it’s one of the initiatives launched to ease procedures and speed things up.”

The one-day court will first attempt to amicably settle disputes in the presence of both parties involved and, if a settlement is not reached, it will hear the case and reach a verdict on the same day.

“We are keen on employing amicable settlements between labourers and employers because it’s the fastest way to grant workers their rights,” said Mr Al Jabri, who added that most cases heard by the labour court are over unpaid wages.

One point of law that should be revised to speed up the legal process, according to judge Al Jaberi, is the mandatory legal notice, which can be costly for workers.

“Some cases require that a legal notice is published in a newspaper, which sometimes is an obstacle for workers who cannot afford the Dh100 or Dh200 for publishing costs,” he said.  The labour court is currently negotiating with a number of local newspapers to provide the legal notices for free to workers.

Another initiative by the court is a “night shift,” in which two courtrooms handle four hearings of labour cases through the night two days a week. It has successfully handled more than 300 cases since its launch.

“Starting this week, the night shift courts will hold six hearings a week but these courts handle cases with financial claims that are less than Dh20,000,” said Mr Al Jaberi.

The night shift will be evaluated soon to determine whether it is successful enough to merit it being adopted permanently, as it is costly due to the overtime hours paid to court officials. Another move being discussed that would ease the burden for workers is free translation services. The aim would be to save workers more expenses as most are required to present their documents to the court in Arabic.

“Once this is approved we will even provide them with transportation to and from the translation offices back to the court,” said Mr Al Jaberi.

Workers who look to take advantage of any of the court’s initiatives must apply and a committee evaluates them and decides whether the individual is entitled to the services.