Firms in Dubai say they are struggling to recruit workers amid increasing labour unrest, writes Karolin Schaps.

Thousands of migrant workers, predominantly from Asia, went on strike in Dubai last weekend over poor working conditions and low wages. The government has threatened to deport them as it is illegal to strike in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

British firms said the action had not affected their sites so far but warned that it was becoming harder to find workers because of anger over conditions.

Mark Prior, EC Harris’ Middle East managing director, who is working on an £8bn scheme in Dubai, said: “Recruitment is an increasing issue, as the labour force is very unhappy.”

Jose Sirera, managing principal at the Dubai office of Gensler, which is working on projects including the 1.5 million ft2 Ritz Carlton, said: “The scale and pace of development in the region is demanding an increasingly large workforce and securing the required number of workers could be a problem if long-term strategies are not put in place.”

The strikes are reported to have taken place at a labour camp in the Jebel Ali industrial area as well as on a construction site in the Al-Qusais neighbourhood.

The labour camps in Dubai are not a place I would send
my own children to

John Davie, British expertise

Dubai’s construction industry employs predominantly Asian migrant workers, who travel to UAE for a period of time and send money back home to support their families, but most of them are paid no more than £6 a day.

The local currency is also linked to the US dollar so workers have also been hit by the depreciation of the American currency.

John Davie, vice-chairman of British Expertise, said: “There is no doubt about the problems. The labour camps are not a place I would send my own children to.”

About half a million migrants work in the UAE.