While the death of UAE’s autocratic ruler Khalifa bin Zayed, dubbed “president”, is making rounds in the media, it is the semi successful labour strikes by food delivery workers which are likely to have a more enduring impact on the Emirate.
This month employees of two delivery companies, Talabat and Deliveroo launched strikes over unfair pay.
After Deleveroo employees successfully forced their company to abandon implementing a pay cut by going on strike, it seems Talabat employees were also inspired by Deliveroo’s success and followed suit.
Anyone aware of the UAE’s economic and labour system understands that the Emirate does not view workers’ rights favorably.
Notorious for its modernized slavery-like system, the UAE’s economic model is highly dependent on underpaid workers recruited from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The regime puts much effort into presenting itself as the economic haven of West Asia to attract global capital.
Many western corporations are glad to establish presence in the UAE as they know that the governing system is far more accommodating to employers than employees.
While Talabat and Deleveroo’s strikes are not particularly significant in their results, in a repressive system like that in the UAE, it is an important development.
The Emirate is notorious for deporting striking workers, knowing that they will always be able to exploit global inequalities and recruit additional people from poor countries.
Thus, success in terms of employee rights in the UAE is always limited and the authorities do not shy away from implementing forceful measures knowing that the unjust global economic conditions favor them.
When examining the recent strikes in a broader context of the shifting economic order, they will leave two important imprints on the UAE.
Despite their limited success, the strikes will to a certain degree normalize such action as a tool against the UAE’s horrendous labour rights record.
Demographically speaking, the Emirati economy would not be able to absorb a well-planned labour strike by expat workers, even if the regime manages to deport all strikers upon the completion of their action.
Among its pool of guest workers, there are many from India’s Kerala state.
This state has a strong leftist political culture that promotes workers’ rights.
Thus, the impact of labour strikes, if properly organized even on a modest scale, may trigger a significant socio-economic effect and motivate others to take similar action.
Second, it will create another point of friction between the UAE and Qatar, as the Qatari media was at the forefront of reporting the recent strikes by Talabat and Deliveroo employees.
Like all autocrats in the region, the UAE’s petty ruling caste hates nothing more than bad publicity, as it is a regime driven by the personal egos of its rulers.
The global economic order is in the process of undergoing significant change.
It would not be surprising if the UAE is impacted by it in a way previously not seen or experienced.