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For Qatari residents: Do you prefer a summer or winter World Cup 2022?

Unfairly accused

Written by  Author |   Sun, 03 May 2015 09:09

There are claims that migrant workers were mistreated in 2022 World Cup construction sites in Qatar. These claims, first reported by British daily The Guardian, created controversy. Qatar denied the claims and acting responsibly named a global law firm to undertake a probe of the matter. “The Labor Ministry named DLA Piper to independently review all the claims made, and to report on their veracity to the ministry,” announced Ali al-Kholeifi, the ministry’s international affairs adviser. On the other hand, Hassan al-Thawadi, Secretary General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, announced that he was outraged by the claims, but acknowledged that it takes time to develop and enforce labor rights laws. “Nevertheless, taking care of the health and safety of workers are key issues for Qatar.”

The conditions migrant workers face on Qatari buildings sites are being unfairly criticized and there are unanswered questions about why so many Nepalese employed in Qatar are dying, Amnesty International Gulf migrant worker researcher Mustafa Qadri has told MEED last March.

The Ministry of Environment has issued laws for regulating work conditions and minimizing the environmental impact of construction. The labor law issued in 2004 states the Health, Safety, and the Environment (HSE) regulations that require employers to provide a safe working environment for all employees. The ministry reviews the performance of contractors, and on the onset of any breaches, the appropriate actions are taken.

Moreover, in 2011, Cabinet Resolution No (16) established the National Committee of Occupational Health and Safety at the Ministry of Labor. The Committee is comprised of representatives from various ministries (including the Supreme Council of Health), authorities (including Ashghal, the Public Works Authority) and Qatar Petroleum (QP).

Many government controlled companies have their own HSE departments. One of the most active departments is the HSSELQ, Lusail Real Estate Development Company’s, LREDC’s Health, Safety, Security, Environment, Logistics and Quality Department which leads the way forward making their mark in the HSE area. As far as safety is concerned, the HSSELQ makes sure that LTIs (Lost Time Incidents) rate as per or better than international standard.

Human rights organizations, however, still accuse Qatar of dragging its feet on the reforms, saying not enough is being done to investigate the effect of working long hours in temperatures that regularly top 50C. This is a charge the Qatar government rejects and Qadri said the situation is Qatar is mixed and there are examples of good practices as well as bad ones.

Some observers say the exceptionally high death rates among Nepalese workers may be due to the recruitment process in Nepal. They say it may be due to the fact that the health of workers is already defective when they arrive and that the mortality rate could be due to that factor rather than working conditions.
The MEED conference held in March was told that Qatar accepts that conditions for workers employed on World Cup and other projects should improve.

In October 2013, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science & Community Development signed the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter. The Foundation has also launched the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare which will help apply minimum requirements with respect to the recruitment, living and working conditions, as well as the general treatment of workers engaged in construction and other projects. The mandatory standards are incorporated into agreements between Qatar Foundation and all its contractors.

The MEED conference was told that Daruna, a Qatari company building accommodation for construction and other workers, had signed a memorandum of understanding for the first in what is planned to be series of model communities for migrant workers.

The number of migrant workers living in Qatar is now estimated to be up to 1 million. About 140,000 new migrant labor licenses have been issued since the start of the year and some forecast the number of migrant workers in Qatar will rise to more than 2 million by the end of the decade.

Charter to protect World Cup workers in Qatar

The Migrant Workers Welfare Charter signed by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science & Community Development is a 50-page document has been developed in conjunction with the International Labor Organization.

The document, entitled 'Workers' Welfare Standards', details the measures that Qatar's World Cup Supreme Committee plan to enact when dealing with contractors and subcontractors over key World Cup stadium and infrastructure projects.

The supreme committee said its principles will be "robustly and effectively monitored and enforced for the benefit of all workers".

Among its actions, the charter will force employers to:

•    Install a telephone hotline for workers to raise grievances and report concerns
•    Grant workers a minimum of three weeks' paid annual holiday based on a 48-hour week that cannot exceed eight hours per day
•    Guarantee workers a rest day or compensate them; and create welfare officer posts as well as a forum for grievances to be resolved.

In 2013, Qatar issued 10 guiding principles that form the backbone of the new 50-page charter:

•    Health and Safety - foster and actively encourage a world-class health and safety culture
•    Employment Standards - comply with the Supreme Committee's required employment standards and all relevant Qatari laws
•    Equality - treat all workers equally and fairly, irrespective of their origin, nationality, ethnicity, gender or religion
•    Dignity - ensure that workers' dignity is protected and preserved throughout their employment and repatriation
•    Unlawful Practices - prohibit child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking practices
•    Working and Living Conditions - create and maintain safe and healthy working and living conditions
•    Wages - ensure that wages are paid to workers on time
•    Grievances - prohibit retaliation against workers who exercise any rights deriving from the Supreme Committee's required employment standards or relevant Qatari laws
•    Access to Information - provide access to accurate information in the appropriate language regarding workers' rights deriving from the Supreme Committee's required employment standards or relevant Qatari laws
•    Training - provide workers with training on skills necessary to carry out their tasks, including areas related to health and safety.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar's supreme committee for the World Cup, has insisted the tournament would not be built "on the blood of innocents".

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