The Indian National Building and Wood Workers Federation (INBCWWF), a BWI affiliate facilitated return of 168 migrant construction workers from Doha, Qatar to their home State – Odisha State, India. The workers were denied wages for more than two months and they had to struggle to meet their basic daily needs in Doha. The workers were hired to work in a road project on a monthly salary of 1,000 QAR with free food, accommodation and medical care. They reached Qatar in January 2017 and were housed in labour camp in Shahaniya area. Even after completion of two months of work, they were not paid any salary and their complaints to the management went unanswered.
The plight of migrant workers was brought to the notice of INBCWWF, Odisha State and their case was immediately taken up with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and Indian Embassy in Qatar. The INBCWWF also outreach to their local contacts in Qatar and they met with the migrant workers and assisted them in filing complaints with the necessary bodies. With interventions at various levels, all 168 workers returned to India in last week of April.
Remembering their ordeal, Prakash, one of the workers revealed “It was a harrowing experience – we went to Qatar with a hope to have better life for us and family and instead we landed up in a situation where the company could not even pay regular salary to us. We are happy to be reunited with our family and we thank everyone who assisted us and now demand strong action against the agent.”
The IAC Chair and INBCWWF President, R.C. Khuntia who was actively involved in bringing back the workers stated “We need to intensify our outreach to migrant workers in country of origin and create mass awareness and undertake rights-based trainings to check workers getting duped often by unscrupulous recruiting agents and middlemen”.
Khuntia has now approached the Ministry of Labour & Employment and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India for strict action against the erring recruiting agent. The case of stranded migrant workers was widely reported in the media in Odisha State.
Ambet Yuson, General Secretary, BWI stressed the important role that unions in the country of origin play to ensure rights of migrant workers. “We support and urge the unions in countries of origin to strengthen interventions to uphold the rights of migrant workers and work with key stakeholders including Government and recruiting agents to promote safe migration.”