DUBAI - Dubai's police chief promised on Thursday to prosecute employers who fail to respect health and safety laws after thousands of migrant workers went on strike over their conditions of employment.
"The bosses of construction firms which fail to provide appropriate working conditions to their staff will be taken to court," General Dhahi Khalfan said in a statement.
"Dubai police will carry out inspection tours of workplaces to check whether businesses are respecting the instructions of Prime Minister and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum," he added.
The police chief was referring to year-old measures ordered by Sheikh Mohammed, who is also emir of Dubai, to improve the working conditions of migrant workers in the booming Gulf city state.
Those measures led to around 100 businesses being ordered closed for failing to meet health and safety requirements.
Some 4,500 migrant workers, most of them Indian, downed tools late last month in a rare resort to industrial action in the Gulf emirate where strike action is outlawed and trade unions are illegal.
According to officials cited by local media, the protesters were demanding an unspecified increase to their wages, which are as low as 500 dirhams (136 dollars) a month, improved transport to construction sites and better housing.
An estimated 700,000 Asians, mostly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, work as construction workers in the UAE, where only 20 percent of the four-million population are UAE citizens.
In March last year, 2,500 labourers rioted at the construction site of Burj Dubai, which has since become the world's tallest skyscraper.
The incident prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch to issue a statement calling on the UAE government to "end abusive labour practices" and describing labour conditions as "less than human."