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Friday, September 17, 2021

Labor law changes set to be announced on Wednesday

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The Ministry of Interior has scheduled an afternoon press conference tomorrow to release its long-awaited changes to Qatar’s labor laws.

Revisions to the country’s much-criticized sponsorship (kafala) system have been promised by government officials for months, most recently by a senior MOI official last week.

Observers have been eagerly awaiting the government’s response to a report on the living and working conditions of blue-collar workers in this country that was submitted earlier this month by international law firm DLA Piper.

The company was hired by the Qatar government last fall in the aftermath of a series of critical articles by The Guardian newspaper alleging the abuse of migrant workers.

While the notification of Wednesday’s press conference did not hint at the substance of the pending reforms, human rights groups have long called on Qatar to reduce the control local sponsors hold over foreign workers.

Exit visas

One area that’s likely to be changed is the country’s exit permit system, which requires expats to obtain their sponsor’s permission before leaving the country.
Brig. Nasser Mohamed al-Sayed, director of the MoI’s Search and Follow-up Department, was quoted by Al Raya earlier this month as saying:

“Regarding cancellation of sponsorship and exit permit system, I can say that soon there will be good news for all citizens and expatriates, and that it will be for the benefit of all parties.”

Supporters of the current exit permit system in Qatar’s business community have justified the current rules on the grounds that it minimizes economic hardships caused by the unexpected departure of key employees.

They also say it prevents expats from taking out loans or writing company checks to themselves before fleeing the country.

Critics respond that the exit permit system is a blunt tool for dealing with these small number of cases and invites abuse, such as in the well-publicized case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who was told by his sponsor that he could not leave Qatar until he dropped a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages.

“Abolition (of the exit permit system) is in (Qatar’s) best interest. There’s no reason to maintain it, and it’s fairly damaging to the country’s reputation,” Nick McGeehan, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Doha News.

He declined to speculate on the specific reforms being announced tomorrow, but has previously called for stricter enforcement of rules prohibiting employers from confiscating passports and recruiting firms charging illegal fees.

Other reforms sought by human rights advocates in recent years – which may or may not be address tomorrow – include:

  • Giving workers the right to form unions;
  • Increasing access to the justice system by hiring more translators and eliminating the fee required to hire an expert when filing a labor court case;
  • Loosen restrictions on foreigners changing jobs;
  • Improve living conditions in labor camps;
  • Stronger safety regulations on construction sites;
  • Establishment of a minimum wage; and
  • Expand the labor law to cover domestic workers.

The government has already announced several steps to protect workers’ rights, including a new wage protection system, construction of two “labor cities” to house more than 100,000 workers in the Industrial Area, and hiring more multilingual labor inspectors and interpreters.

Thoughts?

32 COMMENTS

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Farhan Khurshid
7 years ago

2 hours old report and already 4.x K shares.. Shows how eagerly expats are awaiting these changes.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

My money is on disappointment. Most expats don’t care about the labourers who suffer most and you never hear from on these forums, they only care about themselves and NOC, so they can’t jump jobs at the earliest opportunity for an extra 50 QR

Farhan Khurshid
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Not necessarily true. I would be more than happy even if a small group gets benefit from the new laws. I am looking forward to the NOC too but at the same time, I am looking forward to the laws for Labour unions, minimum wage, improved living conditions at camp and exit permit as well, that may give some relief to the labors.

SullyofDoha
SullyofDoha
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Well to be fair, a well paid employee might leave for less money if their current employer fosters a culture of fear and/or poor leadership. When it comes to your ‘extra 50 QR’ statement I do believe this is true when it comes to low wage earners where their pay is so low it almost results in indentured servitude (and extra 50 QR and a better working environment could be significant for a maid!!).

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Some change is better than nothing. If the most suffering labourers and domestic workers get some relief then there is hope for the rest of us as well.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

So when did you get elected to speak on behalf of most expats?

You couldn’t be more wrong with your sweeping generalisation.

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Who says we don’t? And for starters you think it’s all about $$$. I expected that considering. It’s the freedom to change jobs when your current contract is not being fulfilled by the company, when you’re being abuse by your current employer or when that contract ends and you want to take your talents to another company.

AFG
AFG
7 years ago

“I can say that soon there will be good news for all citizens and expatriates, and that it will be for the benefit of all parties”

Keep your feet on the group. it will benefit ALL parties, not just expats.. if you know what i mean~

Huzz
Huzz
7 years ago

I hope that the authorities realise how important tomorrow will be for them. Announcements made tomorrow will initially shape world opinion on Qatar’s approach to the labour laws and the world cup preparations. If they get this right then they can turn the game in their favour but a half hearted effort will bring massive criticism. Potential for a small gain or massive losses.

AFG
AFG
7 years ago
Reply to  Huzz

Have you been holding your breath?

SeeNoEvil
SeeNoEvil
7 years ago
Reply to  AFG

i think i have

ChaTo
7 years ago

If this reform doesn’t abolish the kafala it will achieve nothing. You can hack at the branches of evil all you want but what really matters is to strike at the root.

s2pidlaw
s2pidlaw
7 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

You are right ChaTo… i’ve been suffering in the company that i work for because of this kafala… they don’t care about their workers or employees… all they care about is money… i think most of the companies here in Qatar are like this… they use this kafala in their advantage to ABUSE and to BLACKMAIL their workers…

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  s2pidlaw

I think most of the companies in the world are like that! It’s a business to make money

s2pidlaw
s2pidlaw
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Yes you are right but i’ve seen it worst here. If i only knew that this is the kind of system here in Qatar, then for sure i will not be here. Anyway i’m planning on leaving this country couple of months from now because i dont have future here. Wishing the change for the labor law will be for the better.

Ikanovic
Ikanovic
7 years ago
Reply to  s2pidlaw

You may dislike and disagree with the Kafala system all you want, but your failure to thoroughly research and know the law of a country before relocating is your fault and yours solely. Don’t blame the system for your ignorance.

s2pidlaw
s2pidlaw
7 years ago
Reply to  Ikanovic

Yeah thanks to Mr. Google for the beautiful description of this country many are being duped by it. Maybe you belong to those individuals who would like to see others suffer or you yourself is an abuser that’s why you are so eager in defending this system or if you are an expat maybe you were given a good offer that’s why you cannot feel the suffering of others.

SokhnaFan2010
SokhnaFan2010
7 years ago
Reply to  s2pidlaw

Come on Mickey, it’s not Disney here, but Ikanovic is right. Basic search information before you go to ANY new job is a minimum. There are thousands of sites out there detailing life in Qatar, plus all the plusses and minuses of living here.

s2pidlaw
s2pidlaw
7 years ago
Reply to  SokhnaFan2010

Yeah it’s not Disney here and Ikanovic is right but why most of the locals and other companies here are so inhumane? I mean it’s just not right. I’m leaving here anyway and that’s good fo me. Wohooo Canada here I come!

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Yes indeed. But in most countries in the world an employee has the choice to leave. And in most countries there are employee rights that have to be adhered to.

Prasenjit Mitra
Prasenjit Mitra
7 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

Chato,

Do you really think they will go that much? I doubt it. The employers and upper class have a deep hold on the higher ups. It will be some changes. Maybe that the employees should be paid within a certain date — I don’t know if it is already there. And, then some form of mobility among employers. Maybe people can move jobs but they (or their new employer) will have to pay some pro-rated part of their airfare. Alternatively, they may try to do some form of contracts where the employer can lock up an employee for a period of time. Anyway, something is better than nothing. I think in the long run the laws will become more humane. But, let us see. Hoping for the best.

BTW, I had a similar (admittedly milder) form of this in the U.S. where I was being paid less than someone whom I was supervising. Within an hour of my green card being approved, I got a substantial raise. The laws have changed a bit to allow mobility among companies while waiting for the last stage these days.

Best,
Prasenjit

Scarletti
Scarletti
7 years ago
Reply to  ChaTo

if it does’nt I am leaving.. (if I can) .. Qatar is getting a reputation as being unjust, so that those who are needed here to deliver 2022 etc weigh up the balance, and the downsides and either demand more money, or stay away. So whilst kafala traps many at the lower end of the scale it means Qatar either has to pay over the odds, or accept mediocrity at the upper end perhaps ?

johnny wang
johnny wang
7 years ago

Looks like a day of reckoning…. Now the guys in between like at HR, The directors, the managers, etc who are mostly not even locals will be waiting and watching the power and authority going out of their grasp knowing fully well that they will not be able any longer to play around and abuse the workers below them and to blackmail or to threaten them with visa cancellations, refusal of NOC, etc. This changes should have happened a long, long time ago.

kubaru
kubaru
7 years ago

Qatar doesn’t believe in a free market – that is the root of the problem. Their obsessive need to control residents movements, sexual behavior and such.
Have they noticed that other countries do manage to avoid implosion due to sudden departure of key employees – and all that without khafala system. And employee is not tied to employer but, lo and behold, economy survives somehow.

Mohamed Rizan
Mohamed Rizan
7 years ago

I feel like everything happened for me , Last week only I know I need NOC form my sponsor to switch to my new job offer, I got a new offer for what I am worth last week, interview already completed, they asked to join immediately , but in my contract notice period should be 2 months, but I planned to give one month notice period and rest in money, so I gave my new company one month time, they agreed, I was planning to give my sponsor 15000 QAR for NOC, After heard that new laws issued today, I am very happy as i will be saving that amount, Qafala system is nothing infront of allah, let your employer switch if you donot want to pay for what he worth, some one will take care him, rather than handling tham like in a prison …. you have money , too much money, you need more money , why you cannot pay for your employers, do they not have family, do they not have life…

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
7 years ago

if positive then MAY 14 should be declared a holiday every year…QATAR EXPATS DAY …lol…:)

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
7 years ago

The time is come for change. The international community is now very aware of the labour laws in Qatar, at the very time when skilled workers are needed. Why would anyone seriously consider coming to Qatar when their national press describes it’s labour practices as archaic slavery. The opportunities bound elsewhere in UAE and beyond. Now is the time, once and for al to draw a line under the kafala system and I believe that Qatar will benefit enormously from it

Anon
Anon
7 years ago

I expect to be underwhelmed, along with a vague timescale. Hope I’m wrong.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Well, I guess you were right.

dubious
dubious
7 years ago

Anyone at the St Regis up for live streaming the press conference for us proles still at work?

BigDaddyDK
BigDaddyDK
7 years ago

There are two ways that power can be used with respect to other people. It can be used to help them, or it can be used to hinder them. Power in and of itself is not evil, but how it is used can be. I’m disturbed by how often I find that power is used here to make life more difficult for those who are simply trying to get things done or get along in the world. There are those few times that I’ve felt quite a sense of gratitude to someone in a position of authority who simply did the humane thing and used that authority to cut through bureaucratic nonsense and allow me to get things accomplished, but it’s been exceedingly rare. I’m curious to see how that plays out with this new announcement.

melay
melay
6 years ago

this is a form of modern slavery for 2 years you’re ban???

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