Dubai's Taqdeer assessment starts, but major contractors miss out on labour welfare initiative

Assessments have started for the Dubai Government’s first ever Taqdeer Awards, but the initiative has yet to entice some of the major names from Dubai’s contracting community.

Taqdeer was launched in October last year by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council. It seeks to encourage best practice among employers by scoring their labour welfare activities using a points-based system. It is targeting labour-intensive sectors, and for its first year the construction sector – in particular larger com­panies employing more than 100 lab­ourers. It said there are 282 such firms in Dubai, employing more than 500,000 workers.

Staff from the initiative began site visits to participating companies last week, including Dutco, BK Gulf and Al Nawras Construction. “We are involved and we think it is a meaningful and worthy initiative,” said Bishoy Azmy, the chief executive of Al Shafar General Contracting.

Craig Ambrose, the human resources director of Al Futtaim Carillion, said his firm was “delighted” to be involved.

“We welcome this initiative as a way of recognising those companies who have demonstrated excellence in labour welfare practices, and also as a vehicle to share innovative practices across the sector,” he said.

However, a number of major contractors have not participated in the initiative – at least in its first year. A Kier Group executive said it had not had any contact with Taqdeer, while Khansaheb Civil Engineering said it had decided not to get involved in the current manifestation of the initiative.

George Franks, an executive director of Khansaheb and the managing director of Interserve International, said although it is supportive of the initiative’s aims, it “came away from the initial briefing unclear about the scheme’s operation and workings in a number of areas”.

“We’d be very willing to take part and engage with local auth­orities over worker welfare, because we think we have a good tale to tell in terms of our accommodation, our employment practices, our health checks, CSR initiatives. But at the moment … we possibly need more clarity in terms of how the scheme is going to operate.”

Similarly, Mark Andrews, the managing director of Laing O’Rourke Middle East, said his firm also “applauds the initiative”, but he felt the amount of work needed to meet its requirements was too onerous given the number of tender bids the company is preparing.

“We already have a very good relationship with the Ministry of Labour. So we decided that we would get more involved with this in the future rather than shoehorn it into a pretty packed agenda.

“The timescales – given what we have on at the moment – are just too difficult this year.”

Al Jaber LEGT Engineering and Contracting, however, said it had dedicated a team of staff to prepare its submission.

“It is beneficial to all that there is a recognised system in place to maintain a high level of care for our workforce,” said Kez Taylor, the chief executive.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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