Monday, July 03, 2006

Who's In Charge Around Here?

There's a bit of a bitch-fest going on between Gulf News and 7Days at the moment. It's all to do with the recent announcement by the Labour Ministry that they intend to replace all expat HR directors and managers, and all secretarial staff with locals within 18 months.

This sparked a barrage of mail to 7Days from Brits and other Westerners currently employed here in those roles.

Yesterday the eminently sensible Nick Coates wrote a blinder of a piece in Gulf News pointing out the harsh reality of the deal for expat workers: 'We come, we work, we go'. We all know that that is how it has always been, and that is how it is now. It may change in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.

"...I point out that if, in your own country, you were outnumbered 3:1 by foreign nationals, you would feel disgruntled with government policy.
Even more so if the foreigners were employed and you weren't. So perhaps, for a change, expatriates should pause for reflection before making calls for "rights" that do not exist and never have existed."

Today's Gulf News carries a piece that orginally appeared in Al Bayan, GN's Arabic-language sister, written by Ayesha Sultan, presumably a local. 'They insult us in freedom's name'

She is upset that opinions have been published that oppose the Government's policy. She seems to think that expats have no right to express themselves at all. In fact she would like to see the raggedy edges of the English-language press reined in somewhat. She concludes...

"Hence, those who like our laws and rules, are welcome, but those who do not must try to understand and respect them. At the same time, they are not allowed to oppose, insult or be impolite.
Strangers should always be polite and this is the dominant golden rule followed everywhere in the world."

Being a Libran, I can see both sides of the argument. It is imperative that more locals are squeezed into the workforce. But I don't think this is the right way to do it. Similar attempts in other GCC countries have failed. You cannot take a whole chunk of the employment spectrum and expect that almost overnight you can replace highly-qualified and experienced people with folk who've just come off the dole queue. How is that supposed to work? Some of the jobs in question are far from trivial - a company's HR Director is one of the key players in a very senior team alongside the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Operating Officer, the IT Director and the CEO. The proposal is that initially, only companies with more than 1,000 employees will have to comply. It'll all end in tears.

So, politely, I would say, 'excuse me, I think this needs a little bit more thought.'


Blogger Seabee said...

I suspect that, like so much else, it's going to be re-thought, amended, honed, adjusted...
For example, already it's been clarified that companies in the free zones are not included.

You're exactly right when you say You cannot take a whole chunk of the employment spectrum and expect that almost overnight you can replace highly-qualified and experienced people with folk who've just come of the dole queue. The big problem with this approach is that many of the people are simply not suitable, for one reason or another, for the job in question. That would be equally true of any other nationality. So we end up with people unsuitable for the position, no aptitude, no real wish to be there. That adds flame to the fire of people complaining about Emiratis' work ethic & ability.
Of course jobs need to be found and priority should be given to Emiratis - but it really does need to be on the basis of jobs for which they're suited and which they want to do.

5:25 pm  
Blogger DubaiTeen said...

I read that article too. I found it quite amusing.. she said that the UAE treats its expat workers well. I've written something on it on my blog.

7:16 pm  
Anonymous cretin said...

10:54 pm  
Blogger Tainted Female said...

I’m thinking keefieboy, this is one of the more balanced things I’ve read on the issue. Even while mentioning your own opinion, you did so with charm. I can’t add anything other than it made for a truly good read.

11:20 am  
Blogger Herlock Sholmes said...

The problem is not the ministry directives. The problem is that we will not be able to fill these positions. It is EXTREMELY difficult to find local secretaries that are willing to cope with the hard work and long hours requested by companies like ours.

As far as HR managers is concerned, it is almost impossible to find people qualified to lead an HR team of 15 people in a company of 100+ employees.

The directive might be there, it will not be impolementable and we will end up paying poeple to stay at home or changing people's title make it appear as if we comply

11:57 am  
Anonymous Mme Cyn said...

Oh, but Mr. Sholmes, surely you know as well as I do that the large companies are big enough to hire who they must and have someone cheap and foreign who can do the real work. Is that not supposed to be how it works?

4:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes well its quite simple, DUBAI WOULD NOT BE WHAT IT IS TODAY WITHOUT THE HARD WORK OF THE EXPATS. And many a locals would not have a fancy car to drive in if it wasnt for forign companies giving them a job or better yet for having to have a local fmaily as a silent partner, ha what a joke as if oil coming out of the ground wasnt enough for nothing.

At the end of the day if you take away the common sense approach of the HR role in any company then more than likey you will have a company full people that have no respect for simple work polices such as getting to work on time, or even turning up to a meeting on time. Bring on the local HR managers watch the company profits take a dive, I pitty any company that follows this HR rule that is listed on the stock exchange, maybe thats what has caused the large fall in stock prices..peopl are nervos as H3LL and want out NOW!! before it gets any crazier.

8:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your report was very balanced and I did enjoy reading it. Now what I dont understand is why the local lady writer thinks that expats should not have freedom of expression??? I have worked with locals . With all due respect I see lot of them talking on the mobile during work, coming late and leaving early. Go to government departments. Government officials have a headset on their ear and while you are sitting infront of them , they chat away with god knows who..if not then they are laughing and joking with the colleagues next to them.. oh well if that's not enough, next thing you know is a local breaks the que and gets his work done in few minutes while you have been waiting maybe for an hour. so my point is if people are complaining about locals then there is a is not out of the blue.

9:16 pm  

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