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Friday, October 22, 2021

Qatar Rail warns contractors over laborers’ living conditions

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An executive overseeing the construction of the Doha Metro has told hundreds of prospective subcontractors to review the quality of their workers’ accommodations if they expect to win work on the multibillion-riyal project.

The remarks came as Qatar Rail hosted a briefing session yesterday at La Cigale hotel for firms interested in equipping the metro stations and underground tunnels with various electrical and mechanical systems.

Over the next few months, the company and its lead contractors will prequalify architectural and engineering firms before inviting them to submit formal bids.

The criteria includes a company’s financial stability, stock of heavy equipment fleet and capacity to take on work. Adherence to workplace health and safety regulations as well as Qatar Foundation’s standards for workers’ accommodations are other prequalifying criteria, officials said yesterday.

Hamad Al Bishri, Qatar Rail’s deputy CEO, offered the company representatives in attendance some advice in his brief closing remarks:

“Start looking at your labor accommodations,” he said. “Look at the standards of your workers’ living conditions. We are very serious about that.”

By laying out this criteria for contractors, Qatar Rail has become the third public entity in the country to adopt a code that outlines better living and working conditions for construction workers than are already required by law.

This means that thousands of additional laborers will now fall under rules that have already been adopted by Qatar Foundation and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is overseeing construction of the country’s new 2022 World Cup football stadiums and training sites.

Subcontractor focus

Al Bishri previously said that Qatar Rail was imposing “rigorous” rules on its contractors regarding the living and working conditions of laborers.

This includes giving each worker their own personal space in their living accommodations as well as providing meals, transportation, laundry and cleaning services. It also involves giving workers safety training in their native language, regulating work hours and paying overtime, he told reporters during a media briefing last December.

However, his remarks to businesses yesterday signal a willingness to tackle the problem of managers abusing laborers in the part of the supply chain where it is most likely to occur.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In its comprehensive report on Qatar’s construction sector released last year, Amnesty International said that most cases of mistreatment involved workers employed by small subcontractors of between 50 and 200 people.

A similar conclusion was reached by François Crépeau, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, following a visit to Qatar last year.

Amnesty said subcontractors often blame delayed payments from their clients for creating cash-flow problems that prevent them for paying their workers on time or renewing their residence permits.

It also said that many lead contractors – often global firms that are responsible for delivering large-scale projects – lack policies to prevent workers from abuse at the hands of their subcontractors, such as mandatory clauses in contracts that require minimum living and working standards for laborers.

Even when such requirements do exist, legal enforcement can be problematic. Human rights activists have previously praised Qatar for having some strong laws in place to protect workers, but add that the country comes up short in implementing its own rules.

“Enforcement is almost always the stumbling block,” said Amnesty researcher James Lynch when the Supreme Committee released its standards earlier this year. “We need to know how (they) will effectively address non-compliance by contractors and subcontractors.”

Metro design

Qatar Rail previously said its contractors have finished excavation efforts for six underground stations and are on track to complete their work in time for the system to open in late 2019.

The first phase will consist of 37 stations along four lines.

In September, Dutch firm UNStudio said it had been appointed principal architect for the Doha Metro project and published its designs.

Qatar Rail officials added yesterday that many design features – namely the floors, walls, benches and directional signage – will be standardized across the system.

The architectural and engineering subcontracts are expected to be awarded by the end of next year.

Thoughts?

14 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Let’s take this setence

“Enforcement is almost always the stumbling block,” said Amnesty researcher James Lynch when the Supreme Committee released its standards earlier this year. “We need to know how (they) will effectively address non-compliance by contractors and subcontractors.”

and change a few words

“Enforcement is almost always the stumbling block,” said road safety researcher James Lynch when the Traffic Police released its standards earlier this year. “We need to know how (they) will effectively address non-compliance by drivers and the police.”

Yep, thought I saw this somewhere before.

Well let’s hope QatarRail follows through on their promises here, it is a noble sentiment but must be back by checks and action against violators.

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You have a serious issue remaining on topic by painting two completely separate entities with completely seperate mandates, with the same brush.

I’m awaiting you further linking this to ISIS, alcohol in the Pearl and that it’s hot in the summer.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

No MIMH is just highlighting that enforcement is a big issue in maintaining safety in Qatar.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

The topic is about enforcing the laws of Qatar, be that on the roads, in labour camps or in other area of life. It’s great to pass all these laws but if not enforced they are just bits of paper.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

They are good at enforcing a ban on alcohol on the Pearl even though it didn’t lead to multiple deaths in the road or humans living in sub human conditions.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago

hang on – if it was SO IMPORTANT (and it is) then these factors should have been fundamental to the assessment of the tenders. There is a still a culture of cheapest is best, and this is the consequence

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  Scarletti

This announcement is for pre-tender qualification.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

The government invented a system of state-sponsored slavery called the Kafala that it has no intention of abolishing or changing in any meaningful way. Given that Qatar Rail is a government entity, why on earth would anyone believe that this pronouncement from Qatar Rail is anything but yet another set of empty words for public consumption.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

I see it as being a positive step.if one link in the chain goes down, that affects the chain, so pressure can come in many ways,especially when money and deadlies are involved.Of course there are others that might say some will take advantage and “ignore” things, and while possible, I see the days of that behavior shortening.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

lets hope the penny will drop! – better workers accommodation, shorter hours = better quality and greater productivity !

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

More hollow words from the slavers. Make it a condition of awarding tenders to see the accommodation and employment supply contracts etc. Not just say , ohh lift your game….actions speak louder then words.

Blue
Blue
6 years ago

With the heightened media coverage, the workers are now the beneficiaries to the higher standards – albeit currently limited to living conditions, timely wage payment, safety, training etc which cover contractors/sub-contractors. Contractors have to comply with these standards as a pre-requisite to selection in the first place – they are audited and performance measures set out in contracts linked to their payment. Compare this to the scenario 10 years back prior to
the QF and other worker standards which have been introduced – it is the first step and I do see commitment from the powers that be. All thanks to the media coverage and the world cup prior to which this was never in the
limelight or priority.

The world cup and the ancillary mega projects will be the catalyst for the change that Qatar and the region require – perhaps from the standpoint from a worker in blue overalls, a blessing.
It is a start.

MB
MB
6 years ago

Handful of comments on this……outrage about a pet shop!!!

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

‘Start looking at your labor accommodations….’ Yeah, just look, stroke your chin, and go back to your big villa and domestic staff and do f**k all about it. As ever.

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