Qatar - Proposed reforms still deny workers the right to form and join trade unions

Despite repeated promises, the Government of Qatar continued to drag its feet over reforms to improve migrant workers’ rights. In March 2015 the ILO Governing Body insisted that Qatar had to reform the Kafala (sponsorship) system by November 2015 at the latest. Both workers and employers representatives at the ILO called on Qatar to take immediate action to abolish the system, which enables the extreme exploitation and oppression of migrant workers. They also called for basic labour rights to be adopted, including the right to organise in trade unions.

Since Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it has come under increasing scrutiny over the appalling conditions in which migrant labourers live and work. Workers are tied to their employer of origin under the Kafala system and cannot leave the country without their employers’ permission. Forced to work for long hours in intense heat, migrant workers have been dying at the rate of at least one a day. Despite the shocking death rates and international outcry against the slave-like conditions, FIFA has taken little meaningful action, beyond some improvements to accommodation and the payment system.

After repeated delays the government announced in October 2015 that its reforms would not be introduced until the end of 2016. The reforms however will do little to improve the lot of migrant workers. The new labour law does not abolish the notorious exit permits, and workers still have to get their employers’ permission to leave the country. Workers will supposedly be able to appeal to the Interior Ministry, but most workers live in fear of that Ministry. Migrant workers still do not have the right to join a union or have a collective voice with elected workplace and representative committees. Domestic workers remain wholly excluded from the labour law.

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