Abu Dhabi: Last year, within the space of two days, 1,700 workers received Dh13 million in compensation after their employer was found to have been delaying their salaries.

A special team from the Labour Court, including a judge and other legal officials, was sent to workers’ accommodation to settle the dispute and the case was resolved very quickly.

To handle similar cases, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has set up a specialised board to speed up any delays when it comes to large numbers of workers.

“If we were to register legal cases for the 1,700 workers, not only would it have taken a large amount of time and effort from judiciary employees, but it would have also caused a big headache for the employees involved whose rights were taken from them. This is why we aim to resolve issues by reconciliation,” said Director of the Labour Court, Hassan Ahmad Al Hamed.

Al Hamed was speaking at a media roundtable for discussing labour-related matters.

“Often times the issues brought up by employees are because of vagueness in their contracts. A recent incident involving around 200 taxi drivers who were complaining against their employer, were doing so because their contracts did not address the problem they were facing. In these situations, employers will be apprehended because they are the ones responsible for setting up clear contracts,” he said.

The 1,700 workers, the official revealed, were working for the same company in Al Ruwais and Al Reem Island. Later, the company’s employees in Dubai also protested, and were also given pending payments.

“The number of cases being registered at the Labour Court is naturally increasing as the capital expands its projects and economy. Interestingly, however, the number of cases that actually go to the Labour Court of First Instance is declining. This is because we are able to resolve a greater number of cases through settlement and reconciliation each year with 2013 seeing more than half of the cases resolved in a friendly manner,” he added.

If a worker faces an issue with their employee, they can approach the Ministry of Labour who will first attempt to resolve the issue. If that fails, then the case will be transferred to the Labour Courts.

“When employers know that they’re being contacted by the court, they get a greater sense of respect and feel more obligated to comply with what we are telling them in terms of paying their employees their dues. We therefore retry reconciliation at our offices and it has been very successful so far,” he said.

All procedures at the Labour Court are free for workers except for placing an advertisement in the newspapers. In case a person is disabled, a Notary Public can be sent to their location in order to give a family or friend power of attorney. In case a lawyer is required, the complainant or a delegated individual can visit the legal advice office at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) and receive free legal advice or get a lawyer assigned.