5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


In practice

Browse by:

New Qatari law is not changing the substantial situation of migrant workers not allowed to repatriate16-04-2017

Qatar has denied many immigrant workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh the ability to return home, despite a new law that was approved in December 2016.

Trade unions have denounced the fact that the law has not abolished the kafala system. Workers continue to be dependent on their employer in order to obtain an exit permit. According to the data reported by the State-run Qatar News Agency, the newly established Exit Permit Grievances Committee rejected 213 of 760 requests made up until 15 February 2017, but no reason was provided for the denial of the requests.

A further confirmation of the unchanged nature of working conditions in the Gulf State is the recent episode of a Nepali migrant worker found dead by his brother. Mr Ram Sharan Mandal, aged 40, was ill and asked for permission to leave the state in order to go back to his homeland to receive adequate treatment and assistance. However, the permission was not granted and on 16 April he was overcome by his illness and died.

Bangladesh unions join lawsuit against FIFA11-12-2016

In October 2016, a law suit was commenced by a Bangladeshi man – the 21 year old Nadim Shariful - against FIFA for allegedly failing to use its influence to ensure basic workers’ rights in the construction sites for the 2022 World Cup. The suit, launched in FIFA’s home city of Zurich, is backed by the largest labour union in the Netherlands, the Dutch Federation of Trade Union (FNV). Mr. Shariful demanded compensation of $11,500 for the $4,000 he paid to a recruiter for a job in Qatar where he then had his passport confiscated and worked for 18 months under unbearably hard conditions.

Unfortunately, Mr. Shariful’s case was not isolated, as international organisations, such as Amnesty International, have denounced the practices of confiscating passports, non-payment of salaries as well as threats at the workplace, which are the rule in the Gulf country getting ready for the World Cup at the expense of exploited migrant workers. Some of them are so desperate that they commit suicide – such as the young Indian worker who hanged himself in the basement of the Convention and Exhibition Center in Doha on 29 September 2016 – whilst some others die of illness, tiredness and malnutrition.

Proposed reforms still deny workers the right to form and join trade unions31-10-2015

Despite repeated promises, the Government of Qatar continued to drag its feet over reforms to improve migrant workers’ rights. In March 2015 the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
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 International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
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.

Around 100 striking migrant workers arrested09-02-2015

Around 800 construction workers employed by two subcontracting companies – Qatar Freelance Trading and Contracting as well as Qatar Middle East Co. – went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in November 2014 in protest against breaches of employment contracts and against poverty wages. The workers had signed contracts before leaving their home countries for Qatar; on arrival in Doha their passports were confiscated and contracts torn up. They were then forced to work for wages one-third lower than promised. Witnesses have reported that a supervisor attacked workers with a plastic pipe when police arrived to start the arrests, and those arrested are believed to be heading for the notorious Doha Detention Centre where migrant workers are often held incommunicado for long periods before eventual deportation.

Exclusion of migrant workers14-08-2013

Today, migrant workers comprise roughly 94% of Qatar’s workforce, equal to about 1.2 million workers. That figure continues to rise, as workers are recruited in vast numbers, largely from South Asia, to build infrastructure and stadia for the 2022 World Cup. Like many other migrant workers in the Gulf region, they face severe, discriminatory policies and practices that violate their fundamental human and labour rights, including the right to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
. Even Qatari nationals have only limited rights in this regard.

Numerous workers are precluded from forming or joining a union due to categorical exclusions in law. In practice, 90% of the total workforce is excluded from the right to form or join a union.

Legal proceedings slow and labour inspection weak01-03-2011

Legal proceedings are lengthy, making workers wait for months with no pay while they seek reparation for an injustice. Very few migrant workers who have had their rights violated have the necessary financial resources to survive while they wait and so they go back home without taking legal measures.

Moreover, Qatar has barely 150 labour inspectors and the inspections do not include interviews with the workers. It is hard to imagine therefore how the authorities really intend to ensure the respect of their labour legislation.

Domestic workers excluded from labour legislation25-01-2011

About 132.000 migrant domestic workers are employed in Qatar. These women are even more vulnerable to exploitation than other categories of migrants, because domestic work is specifically excluded from labour legislation.

Migrant workers still tied to their employers10-01-2011

Migrant workers are recruited through a sponsorship system called «kafala»: a local employer must stand as guarantor, and they must usually work for that employer throughout their stay, as they cannot change jobs without the authorisation of the employer. The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
has stated this system could lead to forced labour and human trafficking. In 2009 the authorities confirmed they could give migrants temporary permits to work elsewhere in the event of a dispute with the guarantor, but few migrant workers are aware of this possibility.

Employers often confiscate migrant workers’ passports to make sure they do not leave the country before the end of their contract, even if the terms of the contract are violated. Withholding passports has been illegal since 2009 if it exceeds the time needed to obtain a residence permit, but the local press reported, in March, the results of a survey among Asian migrants: 88% of them said they had had to hand their passport over to their employer.

The «constituent labour committee» does not inspire confidence30-11-2010

In December the local media reported that the authorities intended to create a “constituent labour committee” that would be one step towards the creation of a trade union confederation, and whose task would be to protect workers’ rights. The 50 members of the committee were to be representatives of workers in the public and private sectors. However there was nothing to suggest that the workers would have any say in the appointment of these “representatives”. It appeared, rather, that the committee would be under government control.

Qatari journalists prohibited from organising independent union30-04-2009

In May the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) refused to take part in events to celebrate press freedom organised by UNESCO and the government of Qatar. “The event is held in a country which supports an international media freedom centre, but refuses to allow local journalists to form their own independent union independent union A trade union that is not affiliated to a national union. Can also be a union that is not dominated by an employer.

See yellow union

or association” the IFJ pointed out.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap