The COVID-19 pandemic did not deter leaders of migrant community associations in Qatar to come together virtually to commemorate International Workers Day. A webinar was organised by the BWI, together with the office of the Deputy Undersecretary for Labour Affairs of Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs for migrant community leaders and workers representatives.
Addressing the community leaders and workers representative, BWI General Secretary, Ambet Yuson, emphasized that; “It’s difficult time - We feel fear, uncertainty, thinking of our family back home. I want to assure you that the global unions - BWI, IDWF, ITUC, UNI, ITF are here for you. It’s time for unity and global solidarity."
In recognition of institutions in Qatar, Yuson added the “Ministry of Labour and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy are doing their best to ensure your health and safety; to make sure your wages and benefits are paid.”
The main speaker of the event, His Excellency, Deputy Undersecretary Mohammed Hassan Al-Obaidly, took the opportunity to restate firmly the commitment of the State of Qatar in upholding the dignity of labour. He explained that; “Time and again, our Head of State, HH Sheik Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, issues statements and directives to the entire government of Qatar to ensure that decent work is upheld in our country. Time and again, we express our deepest gratitude for the migrant workers that have helped and continue to help build our country. The government of Qatar is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that workers are protected as much as possible from the ill effects of this crisis.”
Deputy Undersecretary Al-Obaidly added; “We have issued guidelines on health and employment; we have collaborated with you in information and education campaign enabling us to reach close to 300,000 workers so far; we have instituted alternative mechanisms for labour complaints given the need for restriction in movements of people; we have heightened inspections and take legal actions against violators of the standards as set forth in our laws, and we took legal action against Qataris and non-Qataris.”
Representatives of Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and African communities during the event took turn in presenting experiences and initiatives of their respective migrant community associations in addressing workers’ needs from their communities. Deputy Undersecretary Al-Obaidly assured the leaders that his office will continue collaborating with them in acting on the labour issues brought to the Ministry’s attention.
Deputy Undersecretary Al-Obaidly also said; “I am glad to inform you that in a letter sent by a group of international trade unions and civil society organizations to the government of Qatar, it was stated that they do recognize that Qatar exercises transparency regarding the management of the crisis and they do commend Qatar’s approach in managing the crisis”.
Deputy Undersecretary Al-Obaidly was referring to an appeal made in March by BWI, together with other trade unions and social movements, to governments in the Gulf to protect migrant workers from the pandemic by extending healthcare services to them, ensuring their wages and upholding human rights principles in the implementation of lockdown measures.
Also present at the virtual meeting was Head of ILO Qatar project, Houtan Homayounpour, who said; "Despite the difficult circumstances, it is still very important for us to get together and celebrate International Labour Day. It's a tribute to all of you, for what you do."
Leaders of global unions International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), International Transport Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) sent pre-recorded messages.
In her message, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC said; “We know that there are still two remaining pieces of legislation. The government of Qatar is committed to them – to end the NOC and to put in place an evidence-based minimum wage level. We hope that these arrangements are in place soon. But in the meantime, we recognize that unlike some of the other Gulf States, Qatar has provided support both in accommodation in terms of food and other elements that you’ve raised but also in the workplaces to make sure that workers can be as safe as possible under COVID-19”.