Doha: With the FIFA World Cup 2022 only a few months ahead, Qatar is finally prepared to host the world's biggest sporting event. Major adjustments have been undertaken to enhance the living circumstances of migrant laborers, which have been praised by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations (UN), FIFA, and other important organizations, with Qatar today being seen as a migrant worker-friendly model in the Middle East.
A high-level mission from the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) and the ITUC-Asia Pacific visited Doha, Qatar on a working mission from the 19th to the 20th of February 2022. The purpose of the visit was to gain a better understanding of labor reforms and their implementation in Qatar, identify gaps in complete protection of labor rights, and give recommendations to improve migrant workers' living and working conditions.
The African trade union movement, the ITUC-Asia Pacific, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Qatar collaborated on this mission to improve and increase social participation. It's worth noting that the number of African and Asian migrants living and working in Qatar is substantial and growing. In addition, as Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup later this year, the number of migrants arriving in the country has increased substantially.
Nonetheless, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) initiated a campaign to ensure that host nations of major sporting events follow norms and legislation that protect the labor and human rights of migrant workers. As an outcome, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and other Global Union Federations teamed up with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to reform Qatar's labor laws and practices.
The mission lauds and feels that the Qatari government's reform initiatives are progressive.
Leaders from Qatar's Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labour, as well as labor attachés from many countries of origin, met with the expedition. The delegation also interacted with migrant community representatives and community liaison authorities from throughout the world. The crew attended a conference of the Central Labour-Management Consultation Committee of Qatar Foundation's main contractors and paid visits to labor mediation tribunals, a Red Crescent migrant workers' clinic, and a communal living facility. The team also met and interacted with migrant workers to gain firsthand knowledge of their working environments.
The delegation commended recent measures in Qatar aimed at better safeguarding migrant workers from exploitation, including the passage of a minimum wage statute in March 2021. It is now fixed at QAR 1000 plus decent food and accommodation for all laborers of all ethnicities in all businesses, including domestic labor, or a monthly stipend of minimum QAR 300 for food and QAR 500 for accommodation. Since then, nearly 280,000 workers, or 13% of the total workforce, have had their basic wages raised to the minimum wage, and many have benefited from the obligatory allowances.
Despite certain obstacles, notably from companies and long-standing culture, the mission is confident that the reforms are real and being enacted as a fruit of these visits and dialogues. Qatar has already enforced a number of best practise efforts, such as the elimination of exit visas, the freedom to change enterprises, which has resulted in the transformational reform of the Kafala sponsorship system, and the implementation of a national minimum wage payment that incorporates housing and food, with those who decide not to use the company's accommodation and food provisions being paid in lieu. Better safety and health standards in construction sites and anywhere the average temperature exceeds a certain level; signing labor contract arrangements in a designated site (Qatar Visa Centres) before migrant labor departs to avoid discrepancies upon arrival in Qatar; and the establishment of a workers' representative council are among some of the reforms.
According to the mission, community leaders play a key role in Qatar. The mission suggests that the number of community leaders be increased to assist workers in understanding the complaints system and sharing information about changes. Trade unions in the birth country can assist in the training of these community leaders.
Recognizing the critical role of migrant workers in the country, the mission urges the Qatari administration to persevere and be bold in pursuing labor reforms that are bolstered by strong implementation, such as ensuring that companies are penalized for violations of labor rights to deter future violations. Qatari Minister of Labor Ali bin Samikh al-Marri revealed that many local companies have already been punished and barred when found guilty of violating any laws concerning migrant workers.
“We have done landmark changes to the migrant workers conditions and we are very satisfied with our achievement. We still have more plans in place to ensure zero violations and maximum reforms” Ali bin Samikh al-Marri added that Qatar migrant workers reforms are still underreported where some human rights organisations and media outlets refuse to see the milestones we did and choose to focus on some issues (which we still tackle).
He noted that Qatar record on migrant workers is very good in comparison with some European countries which have problems for migrant workers such as slavery conditions of workers in the UK or human trafficking of workers from east to west European nations.
The mission lauds Qatar's significant advances in migrant worker pay and workplace conditions, and praises the government for its long-term commitment, according to a press release. Qatar is by far the regional leader in terms of worker participation and social discourse, free mobility of workers, labor law, and global collaboration and transparency.
Finally, one of the many positive consequences of this visit is the Qatari government's firm commitment to continue to encourage collaboration between Qatar and member nations of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in order to advance the fair employment of more migrant laborers.