Qatar: BWI welcomes important progress for workers' rights

BWI welcomes the landmark achievements in Qatar that were signed into law on 30 August 2020; introducing a minimum wage for migrant workers and allowing them to change jobs without requiring their employers’ permission to do so.

The minimum wage represents up to 25 percent salary increase for some workers, set at QR 1,000 (USD 275) a month, when food and accommodation is provided. The laws will end the system where a migrant worker had to secure a  no objection certificate (NOC) from his or her current employer before changing jobs, which was a significant worker right infringement, limiting the options and choices available to migrant workers and putting them at greater risk of exploitation.  

(Photo: Reuters)

The government recognises that improvements need to be made in the effectiveness of the Wage Protection System. New measures would increase penalties on non-compliant employers, which is clearly needed as BWI has received many reports of the non-payment or late payment of wages by employers. In this and other areas, the COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to deal with them has also revealed major underlying problems. In some cases, payment issues have led to work stoppages or other labour disputes. 

The changes follow earlier improvements in labour law in Qatar. However, there has often been a delay between legal changes and implementation on the ground. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson stated, “We have been part of a collective effort that has resulted in these reforms, through campaigning and through engagement with the Qatari State, migrant communities, workers representatives and other stakeholders. We have sought to turn successive legislative changes into real gains for workers and look forward to a sustained partnership with Qatar’s government institutions to ensure that the latest legal measures translate into tangible progress for migrant workers.”

These legislative changes are part of an important process of change in Qatar and build on our past achievements. In November of 2016, BWI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy related to construction sites for the 2022 World Cup that provided for joint inspections and training of workers representatives. This partnership has shown positive example of effective implementation and improvement of workers welfare, health and safety and workers’ rights.  BWI’s cooperation with the MADSLA in supporting migrant communities on information campaign, legal assistance as well as humanitarian support has proven to be an effective way of implementing the new legislations.

(Photo: AFP)

The Government of Qatar committed to the ILO Governing Body “to align its laws and practices with international standards and fundamental principles and rights at work”. Among the most important of those fundamental standards is freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. They enable workers, through representation, to ensure that rights are respected on the job.

These important labour law changes is a significant advancement of the commitment made by the Government of Qatar.  The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA), referred to the new laws as part of a larger process, saying that they “mark a major milestone in this journey and will benefit workers, employers, and the nation alike.” 

General Secretary Ambet Yuson reaffirmed BWI support for the labour reform process in Qatar, saying, “BWI and the migrant Community Leaders Forum are looking forward to a meaningful engagement with the MADSLA on the implementation of these new laws. We pledge to work closely with Qatar authorities and our other partners to help complete this journey and ensure that promising and far-reaching legislative measures make a real difference for rights and conditions in construction and that these and other changes will lead to an effective system of industrial relations. It’s time for the migrant workers to be part of this change.”