Breakthrough to end kafala after new commitments from Qatar on workers’ rights

The International Trade Union Confederation welcomes the breakthrough from the Government of Qatar to end the kafala system of modern slavery, and plans further meetings with Qatar’s Labour Minister on implementing labour rights for two million migrant workers in the Gulf State.

“The new guidance from Qatar signals the start of real reforms in Qatar which will bring to an end the use of modern slavery and puts the country on the pathway to meeting its international legal obligations on workers’ rights. Following discussions in Doha there is a clear government commitment to normalise industrial protections for migrant workers,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

“These initiatives have the support of the ITUC, and we hope that implementation will be also supported by the ILO with its technical expertise. Much remains to be done, but these steps open the way for workers to be treated with dignity and for their lives and livelihoods to be protected,” she added.

The new guidance and commitments made by the Government dismantle the system of kafala, which has trapped millions of migrant workers in Qatar. The six steps include:

  • Employment contracts will be lodged with a government authority to prevent contract substitution, ending the practice of workers arriving in the country only to have their contract torn up and replaced with a different job, often on a lower wage.
  • Employers will no longer be able to stop their employees from leaving the country.
  • A minimum wage will be prescribed as a base rate covering all workers, ending the race-based system of wages.
  • Identification papers will be issued directly by the State of Qatar, and workers will no longer rely on their employer to provide their ID card without which workers can be denied medical treatment.
  • Workers’ committees will be established in each workplace, with workers electing their own representatives.
  • A special disputes resolution committee with a timeframe for dealing with grievances will be a centerpiece for ensuring rapid remedy of complaints.

The ITUC has consistently called for Qatar to end modern slavery and make the 2022 FIFA World Cup a world cup with rights for all workers. It has called on the government to abolish the system of exit permits, to put in place a minimum wage to end the race-based wage differences, to allow workers representation, to eliminate contract substitution and to put in place a grievance procedure to settle disputes.

These conditions have been met, and we congratulate the Emir and Qatar’s Labour Minister for their commitment to modernise their industrial relations system,” said Sharan Burrow.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 479 06 41 63 or mail to: press@ituc-csi.org