We continue our discussion from Life in Dubai Part I <-- see part I here if you missed it)
Ali: Well, look, every place has its good and bad sides.
Jerome: For one, as I touched on earlier, there is discrimination. If you're from Asia you'll get a very low salary and you will not be treated nicely, but if you're from Western countries, you're considered superior.
Ali: I tend to agree on salary discrimination. Usually Arab countries and decision makers trust Western educated people and their skills/capabilities without even checking their backgrounds. Western people get higher positions and much better salaries due to their proficiency in English , work specialization , and better protection from their Embassies. On the other hand, often many of the Asian workers come with fake degrees, lousy English, and are untrained, so it is largely the corruption and educational system of their country to blame, and not necessarily the system here.
Jerome: What about the British?
Ali: Well, it’s definitely true that British citizens have the most influence of any of the expats, and are almost always on the board of any high profile corporation.
Me: Is that because the Emirates used to be a British protectorate?
Ali: That undoubtedly plays a part.
Me: Before we move on, Jerome, you stated that people from the Western countries are considered “superior?” In what way? Superior to Asians, superior to Arabs, or both, and why?
Jerome: Superior to both. People here see Westerners as more civilized, educated, moral, and fair.
Ali: This is mostly true. Most of us desire to work under American or British owned companies as well.
Jerome: Let's say for example you and I are applying for the same position. I have a bachelor's degree, and you are only a high school graduate. Employers will choose you over me 100% of the time, just because you're American. And if we’re working at the same company, with the same position, you will get a higher salary, even working fewer hours than me.
Ali: This is reality here in the UAE. It’s unfair but true. Some Arabs and Asians think British and Americans do nothing and get high salaries. But also, in partial defense, they do not understand that Europeans work more efficiently, and thus are more productive.
|The Dubai Marina|
Ali: I have to disagree here. If a laborer respects local rules and labor laws no one will bother him. If he is sponsored to work without high qualifications in hand, then he should accept the deal offered upfront, of working for two consecutive years with the same employer before being able move on to another opportunity.
Me: Two years. That sounds like indentured servitude to me.
Jerome: If, as a foreigner, you have signed a contract to work here, it means you are tied to the company for at least two years, often three, because your employer is your sponsor, meaning they provided you your visa. You can't easily shift to another job if you found a better one. If you desire to change companies before your contract expires, you will have a labor ban and be unable to work for six months. If you want the ban lifted, you have to ask for a Non Objection Certificate from your previous employer which is very difficult to get, and even if you’re lucky enough to get them to agree to sign-off, you still have to pay a minimum of 5,000 dirhams ( $1,390).
Ali: This is the deal offered upfront, and made to protect local sponsors from being at a financial loss from paying to bring employees here from foreign lands, and then to find them leaving the next day. However, I must state, this does not apply to senior manager positions with bachelor or master degrees.
Me: What about work hours?
Jerome: Most of the employer's don’t pay workers overtime. More work, less pay. In my case, once a week I'm working twelve hours a day, and fifteen during Ramadan, with no overtime pay. It's because my colleague is taking her day off, and vice versa for her.
Ali: C'est la vie, due to high competency rates here, an employer can easily find people to replace you, so if you start asking or nagging for overtime the day after you start, you could be fired easily. Working in any oil rich/wealthy country, people need to show great levels of sacrifice and extra effort to keep their job. However, this does not always apply to Westerners as sponsors usually count to ten before firing them as the worker is likely to go to court to demand all contractual compensations.
Me: I wish Tea Party members in the U.S. who think it’s best that corporations have completely free reign, and should the supply and demand of the free market dictate it permissible for companies to publicly flog their employees with a slave whip, that the S+P 500 should be allowed their "constitutional right" to exercise their triceps in such a manner, would read this balanced argument and perspective on labor laws ... But, let me be fair to the the Tea Party who believe NO regulations are the only good regulations, companies should only be allowed should to do so IF employment opportunities in the free market are so scarce, that people would allow themselves to be subjected to floggings because they need to feed their families. After all, the wheels of capitalism must always be left to spin to their own devices.
Ali: And I thought Jerome went on rants.
Jerome: Oh, don't get started! Most employers here abuse their workers, My Lebanese boss is always shouting at me, calling me a fool, and I find it hurtful.The owners of the company I work for have every desire for us to cheat customers to remain profitable. You’ve seen yourself firsthand Richard, the outrageous prices we charge. There's nothing special about the items, and sometimes we are knowingly selling damaged goods at margins of 500%. I told you before our products sell well. that was a lie. Why did I tell you that? Because there is a live video feed in my store, and I was afraid my boss might overhear.
|Dubai's 7 star hotel- from a distance|
Jerome: Very congested accommodations due to high rent.
Ali: This applies only to low income workers, anyone making below 4,000 AED a month. ($1,100)
Jerome: No, like any low to medium level job, they are performed by expats. Because police provide security, the royal family chooses to employ people closer to their blood lines, generally Arabs from Yemen and Oman. Most of the policemen speak no English, which makes it really tough for Asians like me here.
Ali: I have to step in, I believe Jerome's statement is inaccurate, perhaps not good English, but in general they speak some.
Me: Are the police fair and protective of everyone?
Jerome: Fair? Ha! Please.
Ali: Again, I'm a tad annoyed, I think what Jerome is saying is inaccurate. Police in the UAE respect all nationalities and treat everyone equally.
Jerome: Care to eat your words? Watch this.
The three of us huddle around Jerome's IPhone watching the following Youtube clip.
Before you watch, know that is not for the squeamish. What you see here is a brother of the Crown Prince torturing and attempting to Kill an Afghan grain trader
Scary torture shown on ABC News of the Crown Prince's brother torturing an Afghan. THIS STUFF IS DISGUSTING be careful watching!!! Not for the squeamish!
Me: This is not something discussed in the UAE is it?
Jerome: Actually, it made the front page, it was disgusting, just swept under the rug, his defense attorney said he was drugged, and therefore not responsible for his actions. Despite that, look at us, we're clandestine, we both gave you this interview on anonymous basis, there's no real freedom of speech here.
Me: Hey, who are those guys looking at us.
We look over at what are likely plain clothed security officers. Or thugs, maybe the same ...
Ali: I thank you for your time, but if you'll excuse me, I must be going.
Me: I have plane to catch to SE Asia. Gentlemen.
And with a nod and a handshake we all walk briskly away.
Closing thoughts on the UAE
First of all, the more I travel, the more grateful I am to have been born in America, and for the foresight of our forefathers and founders of our nation who created the First Amendment, something most US Citizens can thankfully take for granted growing up.
When I see places like the UAE which look progressive, and actually are compared to much of the world, and then discover the fact that law enforcement was involved in the torture and attempted murder depicted in the above video, and that they got off, and the people who leaked the tape, and also shot it it, were the ones convicted, in absentia, and the royal family just sweeps this horrific act under the rug because it was some utterly sick member of the ruling family who was the perpetrator, I am doubly grateful to live in a country with the ability to bring this to light, where no one, except maybe OJ Simpson, could get away with this heinous crime with direct video evidence against them.
I also thank God for the Internet, and for Google and Youtube, where such a clip is stored and can be explored as more than just a 5 minute segment on ABC News, and discussed once at the dinner table.
I think it's safe to say, I have little interest in going back to Dubai.