Qatar must move forward on labour rights

The ITUC is deeply concerned at the situation facing migrant workers in Qatar now that the men’s football FIFA World Cup 2022 is over.

If the labour law reforms made by the government at the ILO in November 2017, including those on the abolition of the kafala system of forced labour, are not fully implemented and built on there will be no positive and lasting legacy of the FIFA World Cup.

Implementation, particularly for construction, security and domestic migrant workers has fallen behind expectations and many rogue employers have been able to evade their legal responsibilities on wages, job transfers, working conditions, residency, and other provisions.

Inflation has overtaken the gains made through the introduction of a minimum wage, and the labour inspectorate and disputes settlement committees have not met the needs of all the country’s migrant workforce of around two million people.

The legal foundations of the kafala system, which ties workers to employers, have been removed in Qatar and significant progress has been made on implementation. However, reports indicate that many workers still face problems, in particular when wanting to change employers.

In a country where freedom of association and the existence of trade unions is not accepted, social dialogue is far from being achieved, nor is the promotion of social justice.

Passing laws in a country is a necessary but insufficient guarantee that workers´ rights will be respected. The existence of trade unions is fundamental to the continuous promotion of better working and living conditions for workers.

“Qatar needs to ensure that the law reforms benefit every migrant worker, to accelerate reforms and take the most important step – ratification and implementation of the ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.

“This is the only way that a lasting legacy that benefits all workers, including migrant workers, can be ensured. The new Prime Minister, former Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who was appointed this week, must make this a top priority for his government,” said ITUC President Akiko Gono.

The ITUC is calling for a set of clear steps from the government of Qatar to consolidate reforms and go further:

  • A timebound plan for the ratification and effective implementation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, following the commitment made to global unions by the government in October 2017 to start a dialogue on all Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
  • Protection and enhanced roles for the Community Liaison Officers working with global unions in Qatar.
  • No retaliation against workers’ rights advocates.
  • Demonstrable improvements in enforcement and inspection, especially in relation to ‘Non-Objection Certificates’ allowing labour mobility.
  • Engagement with global unions in the minimum wage council, with an urgent increase in the non-discriminatory minimum wage.
  • Constructive dialogue with global unions on proposals for a Migrant Workers’ Centre and a legacy fund for former and current migrant workers who do not have access to such support.
  • A commitment to continue to work with the Global Unions and with the ILO in these areas, including evaluation and a road map for further action to ensure fundamental workers’ rights.

“FIFA must also play its part, in particular on a legacy fund that is fit for purpose and meets the needs of those who have suffered for the World Cup. FIFA cannot simply walk away and evade its responsibilities.

“Even though the World Cup is over, Qatar clearly wants to continue to host international events as part of its future. Accelerating and deepening reform must also be part of that future,” said Akiko Gono.

The ITUC recognises the ILO’s role in striving to ensure the rights of workers in Qatar, especially migrant workers as well as the work done by global unions in reducing the suffering of these workers. The ITUC will continue building alliances to fight precarious work in Qatar.

The ITUC will also fight to stop FIFA imposing conditions in the future, such as those enforced on world cup hosts Brazil and South Africa, which led to the exploitation of construction and service workers and excluded street vendors from fan parks and public viewing zones. All sports governing bodies must fully respect workers’ and other human rights.

The ITUC also wants to see progress repeated and exceeded in other Gulf States, including in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.