Trade unions reject Qatar labour proposals

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Critics say the sponsorship system leads to exploitation of workers.

Critics say the sponsorship system leads to exploitation of workers.

International trade unions have rejected proposals by the Qatari government to scrap the country’s sponsorship system and establish labour unions.

Earlier this week, regional media reported that authorities in the gas-rich Gulf state were prepared to abolish the kafala system, whereby the visa and legal status of migrant workers is the full responsibility of employers.

Critics say the system leads to exploitation of workers, as they must obtain permission from employers every time they leave the country.

It was also suggested that the government would look to set up trade unions, although foreign workers would not be permitted to become board members.

Although no official announcement has yet been made, The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called for Qatari lawmakers to instead allow foreign workers to set up their own labour unions outside of government control.

“Workers must have the legal right to organise themselves in free, independent trade unions without punishment or interference from authorities,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, in a statement.

“We are ready to sit down with the Qatari authorities to ensure the legal conditions are in place for workers to collectively bargain and freely form and join trade unions of their choice.”

The statement added that international trade unions were currently negotiating with the football governing body FIFA over labour standards at the World Cup 2022 event, which is set to be held in Qatar.

A study conducted late last year revealed the extent of workers’ rights abuses in the gas-rich Gulf nation.

The report by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee found that a third of construction workers never receive their wages on time, with 30 percent earning just QAR800 (US$ 219) per month.

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Posted by: Thamir Ghaslan

There are embassies and courts in the region for a reason.

Instead of running away from the sponsor or getting abused and tolerate it, how about utilizing the embassy or court?

I've known hundreds of won cases by locals and expats when they use labor courts with solid evidence.

Posted by: Jim

Unions are not good, they only do one thing and that is squeeze the companies that employ the ppl, however in saying that, of course ppl need to be paid on time and paid the amount and gratuity that is owed, although some have suggested that this common practise and there is no need to worry, that the laws here help, I personally know a company that does not do this and has gotten away with not paying its staff its commission, they have paid the salary which was promised (late) but that was very low, only to promise that if they met targets that would also be paid a commission, but alas it has not. Easy way not to pay your employees.

Posted by: Lionheart

@ David .

You really need to research your facts and have a look at the current law on family status . Your argument is wafer thin to say the least . Sponsorship is archaic and outdated and helps no one except the sponsor , not the company or the individual which what really matters .
People are living in squalor now in every Gulf country . If you want to move forward and improve your image then do the right thing and progress with real change and real Human Rights , it's about doing whats right not about image.

We're also dealing with people and peoples lives and they deserve dignity and respect and freedom . I manage 500 people here and we go over and above what the labour says and it costs us very little cost per man and we get productivity back tenfold.

If we can do it anyone can do it . The times are changing and people and companies living in the past need to address that or they'll be sunk when legislation come into effect

Posted by: John Smith

@David, lets not forget that the west was built by tom, dick and harry and hence did not do anyone any favours by letting "them in".

In the case of Qatar, they are still on the steep end of the learning curve, give them time, let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.

Posted by: Telcoguy

@David, well said. And while we are at it why do workers need to be paid? Flog them hard and they will work even faster!
I am sure with our policies we will have no problem luring the top talent required in a modern economy.

@Procan, your ideas will bring the demise of the West! First you allow workers to switch jobs, next thing they are asking education for their children and healthcare benefits.

(In case it is not clear I am being sarcastic, I am actually curious if David thinks the policies he supports should be applied to him or they are just for other, darker, people. At least procan called a spade a spade, kudos for that)

Posted by: kingkaiser

@David: please tell me your comment was meant to be facetious! You're literally condoning slavery - laborers shouldn't be allowed to switch jobs, live with families, etc.
So basically if someone is underpaid and abused, he shouldn't be allowed to leave since it "creates hardship for the employer". Would the same rule apply if it was your child in that sitution, or only if the people in question are from other countries?

As for "letting in every Tom..."; Qatar already has let these people in. The question is will they assist them in getting their rights! We're not talking about the UK's social service here; we're talking about people getting paid for a full day of work, with no benefits to speak of.

Posted by: procan

@David the workers are not slaves right? If they can not switch jobs freely, you are slave, to the company right? What they do with there family's is there business .Qatar image not more important than Human dignity.

Posted by: Dahatee

Qatar has laws and the punishments for non-compliance are extremely harsh.

I currently manage an international company based in Doha and have been out here since 2004. Over this time i have seen major changes and improvements to working conditions but the amount of misinformed people over here is just crazy.

There is a massive fear of people that the courts will not actually give them a fair hearing, which from personal experience i have found to be totally false.

Or they just cant be bothered.

A good example of peoples ignorance: you must provide each worker that you employee (laborer) a minimum amount of living space (15sqm).

How many people even know about this law let alone implement it?

How many laborers have actually complained about these types of conditions?

Not many i am sure.

Posted by: Arjun

Asian games 2006 was a big joke. Asian Cup football even bigger where ticket holders were turned away from the final game. I know there are a lot of issues elsewhere as well but too much too soon is spoken about Qatar. Let's everyone give them a fair chance to make things up and see to what international level these guys can make Qatar a good experience for the world game. Labour laws !!!!! I guess that is not something which the Qatari's themselves would not be interested to talk about right now. There are many other pain staking ventures to be drawn, boarded and then lay it down. I support the Qatari's for their vision but only if they get their act together and understand it's a world event and things in the past should be corrected. It would've been very fair if Qatar hosted it along with their neighbors like Bahrain & UAE, it makes more sense.

Posted by: Lionheart

The labour law is quite specific in Qatar and it's a good decent tool to have . The problem comes when enforcing it against companies who flout it .

Qatar has lots of laws just as most of the other countries in the Gulf but it's the enforcement of them and being proactive in it's management that is it's key .

It doesn't need unions it just needs tighter control and proactive management of it's current labour law . Companies will always game play and get round it and putting specifics into contracts for labour laws will add to the cost .

It's the people who don't have a choice to leave , to get exit visas , to get paid on time and to get holidays and who live in sub standard accomadation that we should be constantly helping . This is always happening with or without the World Cup .When you're on the World stage playing with the big boys you need to raise your game just the same as South Africa had to .

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