Philippine Migrant Workers celebrate May Day

On 1 May the Filipino Construction Mutual Aid Organisation, a Doha-based community organization that represents building and construction workers, joined more than 600 trade unionists from the Federation of Free Workers for a May Day celebration at the Liwasang Bonifacio monument in Manila, Philippines. 

We support our brothers and sisters in their struggle to achieve decent work,” President Aladino Bulan told the crowd. “Low-income overseas foreign workers are vulnerable to severe exploitation, especially in the construction and domestic work sectors. Qatar, home to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has seen some of the most severe conditions of exploitation for migrant workers in modern times.” 

These conditions may include extremely long working hours, confiscated passports, substituted contracts and squalid and cramped accommodation. Delays in the payment of wages are common, exacerbating debts incurred by fees that workers often have pay to labour brokers and recruiters at home. 

“The kafala sponsorship system of employment, in which migrant workers are effectively bonded to a single employer and cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission, leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation and violates their basic rights”, said Bulan. “We are working with BWI to try and abolish this system altogether.” 

Qatar is still experiencing a rising demand for foreign workers to build football stadiums, hotels, shopping malls and transport infrastructure. Human rights groups and global union federations have strongly criticised the projects’ horrific health and safety record so far, in which over 1200 workers have already lost their lives, and thousands more are expected to follow.  The Filipino Construction Mutual Aid Organisation was established in November 2015 to promote and defend the rights of Filipino construction workers working on the 2022 Qatar World Cup. 

“We are proud to be working alongside BWI in promoting Decent Work in the construction projects, and hope to amplify our voices through collective action and organisation. As part of these efforts, we call upon the Philippine government to take immediate action to address some of the worst forms of exploitation, in particular human trafficking and slave labour.”