The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) released two, related reports on Qatar. One report, entitled “BWI Report on Qatar” is a reaction to the annual progress report on the ILO-Qatar technical cooperation program, entitled “BWI Report on Qatar”. Its release coincides with the discussion in the ILO Governing Body of the ILO Qatar office progress report this week.
The second document was prepared by lawyers from the Philippines, Nepal, and India. It is based on information provided by migrant construction workers at a legal clinic held on 14 June 2019 in Doha. It has already been submitted to the authorities in Qatar and is part of our ongoing cooperation with them.
The report makes several recommendations to the Government of Qatar in areas where they are seeking to advance their reforms. It includes addressing the serious problem of non-payment of wages and other forms of wage theft by some employers as well as the new Workers’ Support and insurance Fund that has been created by the government and will be operational next month. Wage issues have taken up to 16 months to resolve and have been the cause of many industrial disputes. The Fund, by compensating workers who are proven victims, and subsequently collecting back wages from offending employers, will make a real and tangible contribution to the lives of construction workers.
Another area where there has been substantial progress is occupational health and safety. BWI has been cooperating with the Supreme Committee on Delivery and Legacy and the Ministry, MASDLA as well as QDVC/VINCI, with which it has a framework agreement covering Qatar. BWI also has global agreements with Besix and Salini Impreglio, both of which are performing work in Qatar. Most of the progress has been in safety. Efforts are also being made on occupational health issues, but they need to be accelerated, particularly concerning health risks related to heat stress.
There has been considerable progress in the standards for workers’ accommodations, one of the major issues, along with employment rights when BWI began working on Qatar in 2010 and in the country in 2014. However, there is a need for better advanced planning on new accommodations to ensure that facilities are fully completed before they are used by workers.
BWI has also worked closely with authorities and companies as well as the ILO Project office on the development of Workers Welfare Committees, Workers Welfare Forums, and Joint Committees. Representation systems are being extended beyond World Cup-related sites to the entire industry, which bodes well for the future.
At the enterprise level, worker representatives have been elected in secret ballet, transparent and fair elections. BWI has participated in training elected representatives on both health and safety and grievance issues. BWI suggests that additional responsibilities be given to committees and considers their establishment and functioning to be import steps toward the full protection of trade union rights.
The two reports being made available give further background on BWI work in Qatar as well as details on progress that is still needed as well as several concrete recommendations.