A group of expatriate workers who were allegedly exploited by their employer and denied access to the Labour Relations Department are now getting help.

Twenty-five workers said they unintentionally broke labour laws when they began work on visit visas. They had no contracts, they said, and were denied access to the Labour Relations Department.

"So we were left in limbo after our employer first failed to pay our salaries, then refused to obtain employment visas and demanded Dh1,200 from each of us to get our visit visas renewed," a worker said.

Gulf News took up their case with the legal department at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Eisa Saleh, director of the department assured them they can still bring their complaints to the Labour Inspection Department, which will investigate the case and refer it to the Labour Relations Department, which must receive a complaint before workers can bring a case in court.
"I never knew that I was falling into a big trap," said one worker, a sales executive for the marketing agent.

"They take young job-seekers on visit visas promising good incentives. They make them sign a contract, but never give them a copy of it," he said. "They then take their passport and certificates and send them out in the field to promote financial products. At salary time, the workers are told that unless they come under the company's sponsorship, their salaries will be put on hold.

"When the visit visa expires, the workers are told that the employment is still being processed and they will get another visitor visa. But for the second visit visa, each employee is asked to pay around Dh1,250. They feel frustrated, trapped and helpless."

"Some workers quit to search for another job and others stay back by paying that extra money out of their pockets for the new visa," another worker said.

Many workers said they did not seek legal recourse because of their visitor visa status, fearing the government might take action against them.

"We don't have any documents to prove that we have been working for the company. All that we do have is business cards printed by the company, presenting us as sales executives," a worker said.

An official from the marketing company rejected the suggestion his company recruited workers on visitor visas. The claims, he said, may have been raised by workers who were on probation.

If convicted of breaking immigration laws, the employer faces three years in jail and a fine of at least Dh10,000. The fine can be levied on every illegal worker employed by the firm.

What the workers say
• Job-seekers on visit visas are offered employment promising good incentives The employer makes them sign a contract, but a copy is not given to them.
• When the visit visas expire, the workers are told their employment visas are still being processed.
• Workers are then asked to give Dh1,250 each to obtain another visit visa.
• When salary time comes, workers are told that unless they come under the company sponsorship, salaries will be put on hold.
What the company says
• The company never recruits workers on visit visas.
• The claims must have been raised by workers who are on probation.