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.