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Fri 28 Sep 2012 10:26 AM

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Trade unions lodge formal complaint against Qatar

Two international bodies urge ILO to act over refusal to allow expat workers to unionise

Trade unions lodge formal complaint against Qatar
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Qatar's refusal to allow migrant workers to unionise is linked to a high rate of workplace deaths and violates global standards as the wealthy Gulf state prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, labour unions have said.

The International Trade Union Confederation and the Building and Woodworkers' International have lodged a formal complaint against Qatar with the International Labour Organisation, the two union groups said in a statement released on Friday. The ILO is a United Nations agency.

Migrant workers make up 94 per cent of the Qatari workforce, the statement said. Nearly 200 Nepalese workers die each year in the country, but the Qatari government does not publicly acknowledge the number of worker fatalities, a spokesperson from the ITUC said.

The Qatari government was not immediately available for comment.

"An event like the World Cup should be an opportunity for a wealthy nation like Qatar to modernise its social framework - and we will be putting all pressure we can to ensure that workers' rights are improved as a result of the event," ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in the statement.

Qatar 2022 World Cup organisers have said they will ensure contractors adhere to international labour laws.

The tiny Gulf state has embarked on a massive domestic building programme in the runup to the tournament, with plans to spend $11bn on a new international airport, $5.5bn on a deepwater seaport and $1bn for a transport corridor in the capital, Doha. It will spend $20bn on roads.

Poor working conditions are common across the oil-rich Gulf region, where impoverished men and women from South Asia have come for decades to toil on construction sites or oil projects or to work as domestic help. Qatar has no minimum wage.

All foreign workers in the region must work for a local sponsor, and it is legally difficult to leave a job before an employment contract ends without the sponsor's consent. Many sponsors keep their workers' passports.

Digital magazine: Read the latest edition of Arabian Business online

ARM 7 years ago

Correction, Qatar does have a minimum wage. Delay and cancelation of salaries happens and are not well enforced, but there is a min wage.
Enforcement of current regulation is not adequate, not sure more regulation will make a much needed change in the real world.

Labour Supporter 7 years ago

This is great news and I fully support the Unions. The days of Qatar exploiting the expat workers is coming to an end. It's time that Qatar is held responsible for the mistreatment and even deaths of the expat labor force.

The Unions finally have the power in Qatar to make a positive change for all the labourers. If Qatar doesn't amend this fast, there will be no World Cup in Qatar!

MJM 7 years ago

Really happy to hear this news. Wealthy Gulf countries do not have ANY excuse to non-standardize labor rights!