The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) welcomes the announcement of new commitments made by the Government of Qatar on a variety of points ranging from changes in the kafala system to the establishment of workers' committees and mechanisms to address grievances efficiently and quickly.
We look forward to the implementation of these changes, as it will further strengthen BWI’s work on the ground in ensuring the rights of all workers including the more than 1 million migrant workers in the construction sector. In particular, the BWI joint stadium inspections, the outreach to the community and engaging with companies in establishing worker committees.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson stated, “The positive measures taken by the Qatari government help to protect the rights of migrant workers in the country. We have made good progress in our cooperation with the Supreme Committee on the joint safety and health inspections. The latest changes in the legal framework will create a supportive environment for the work that we have already started together.”
Positive changes have been witnessed by BWI in workplaces during its ongoing joint safety and health inspection programme after long discussions and the negotiation of a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding with the Supreme Committee on Delivery and Legacy to promote occupational safety and health of migrant workers at stadiums being built for the 2022 World Cup Tournament. To date, the BWI and the SC have conducted five joint safety inspections covering over 9,000 workers. Upon each inspection, the joint inspection team has provided concrete inputs and recommendations to the respective contractors for immediate corrections.
In addition, the BWI has outreached to thousands of workers in the last four years through a series of activities to inform migrant workers about their rights. In collaboration with migrant community groups, the BWI also provided much needed direct service and intervention to migrant workers in need.
He continued, “We look forward to continue our working relationship with Qatari authorities and construction companies operating in Qatar to improve the rights and conditions of migrant workers. We have engaged with a number of construction companies to strengthen safety and health standards and establish independent workers’ committees which has facilitated problem solving in worksites and accommodation facilities.”
The specific commitments announced by the Government includes the following measures:
Lodging employment contracts with a government authority to prevent contract substitution, ending the practice of workers having contracts replaced on arrival, often meaning different, being given different, lower wage jobs after arriving in the country.
Workers will be free to leave the country without interference or authorisation from employers.
A minimum wage will be developed as a base rate covering all workers, ending the race-based system of wage setting.
Identification papers will be issued directly by the State of Qatar, rather by employers. ID cards are necessary for medical treatment.
Workers’ committees, with elected representatives, will be established in each workplace.
A special disputes resolution committee for grievances will be established with time deadlines.