Move is designed to improve workers’ rights, which lobbyists say are nonexistent
Qatar is set to establish the country’s first labour union to improve workers’ rights ahead of the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to local reports.
"Planning for the World cup is not restricted to construction and infrastructure improvements but includes addressing workers' rights," Hussein al-Mulla, deputy minister of labour, was quoted as saying by the al-Ara newspaper.
"Qatar is planning to form an elected and independent workers' union to protect workers' rights regardless of their nationality," he added.
The move comes as global trade union authorities called on the Gulf state to implement reforms to its labour laws.
Despite pledges to address criticisms of workers’ rights, the conditions for the Gulf’s thousands of low-skilled migrants remains “appalling”, the International Trade Union Confederation told Arabian Business in January.
“It is abominable that it exists when the Gulf [states] believe they are fully paid-up members of the global community,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary at the ITUC. “The abuse of trade and union rights is extraordinary in some of the wealthiest nations in the world.
“The bulk of [citizens] want democratic rights and freedoms. But the bulk of the workforce across the GCC are migrant workers [that] are basically enslaved.”
Lobby groups such as ITUC have said they plan to capitalise on efforts by GCC states to host world events such as the Olympic Games and the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar to force nations to pay closer attention to the rights of expatriate workers.
FIFA had a taste of this tactic in November, when it was lobbied by trade unions objecting to the conditions of “modern slavery” experienced by blue-collar migrants in Qatar.
In a letter to football’s world governing body, the ITUC asked that the gas-rich Gulf state be stripped of its hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup if conditions failed to improve
“We have already indicated to the Gulf states - and Qatar in particular - that this model of 21st century enslavement of labour can’t continue,” said Burrow.
“We have two ambitions: to organise workers and press government for… the right to collective agreement, beginning with a minimum wage and social protection.”
The Gulf plays host to millions of migrants, primarily from Asia, who account for the majority of blue-collar workers in the construction, domestic work, and service industries.
An estimated 3m migrate each year, sending back an estimated US$175bn in remittances annually, according to Human Rights Watch data.
The six GCC states employ around 15m guest workers, according to World Bank figures. In Kuwait, there is approximately one migrant domestic worker for every two citizens.