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Qatar signs bill to protect foreign workers

Construction workers in Doha, Qatar [Richard Messenger/Flickr]
Construction workers in Doha, Qatar [Richard Messenger/Flickr]

The Qatari government has approved a new bill that will implement measures supporting and protecting the two million foreign workers residing in the country.

The Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund has been set up to ensure workers are paid their overdue wages and would operate independently under the guidance of the Qatari cabinet.

Signed yesterday after a meeting between the Qatari Labour Minister Issa Al-Nuaimi and the heads of diplomatic missions in Doha, the measures include a minimum wage to foreign workers to ensure they have the necessary means to meet living expenses.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), based in Belgium, welcomed the new bill and described it as a “breakthrough”.

Read more: Qatar to allow some foreigners permanent residency

In a statement on its website yesterday, the ITUC’s General-Secretary Sharan Burrow affirmed that “there is a clear government commitment to normalise industrial protections for migrant workers”.

She added that “much remains to be done, but these steps open the way for workers to be treated with dignity and for their lives and livelihoods to be protected.”

Qatar is one of a number of Gulf nations which has been criticised over the years for its lax laws on overdue wages, its strict requirements in allowing workers to leave or switch jobs, and its general treatment of foreign workers, particularly those from the Indian subcontinent.

 Qatar’s migrant workers: Progress for the wrong reasons is not progress

In recent years, however, there have been noticeable improvements such as last year’s introduction of a new law making it easier for workers to change jobs or leave the country, easing the requirement of a migrant worker having to obtain their employer’s consent.

State-run “grievance committees” were established to which the workers could resort if employers denied them permission. A scheme was also set up in 2015 called the “Wage Protection System” in order to prevent workers’ salaries being delayed or remaining unpaid.

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