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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Qatar welcomes ILO report on work-related incidents amid calls for transparency


The International Labour Organisation says its report gives the most accurate picture of construction workers’ conditions in Qatar. 

A recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Qatar shows gaps in data collection with regards to construction workers’ injuries and deaths in the country.

The ILO released on Friday an in-depth analysis of work-related injuries and fatalities recorded in 2020 based on data gathered from major Qatar-based institutions. However, it found gaps in data collection and differences in incident categorization, the organisation said. 

“As a result, it is still not possible to present a categorical figure on the number of fatal occupational injuries in the country,” the report noted, calling for improvements in information gathering and investigating injuries.

Last year, some 50 workers died in Qatar and over 500 were severely injured, whereas 37,600 suffered mild to moderate injuries, according to the ILO report, One is Too Many.

“Its findings are based on data collected from all medical institutions that provide acute care for injured workers in the country,” it stated. 

As per the report, the majority of workers who suffered occupational injuries were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

“Falls from height and road traffic accidents were the top causes of severe injuries, followed by falling objects on worksites,” it added.

The ILO said the investigation comes in response to growing calls for accuracy and transparency on migrant labourers’ working conditions in Qatar and work-related incidents, particularly those related to World Cup infrastructure projects.

Qatar’s Ministry of Labour welcomed on Friday the ILO’s report and confirmed recommendations are being reviewed. 

“No other country has come so far on labour reform in such a short amount of time, but we acknowledge that there is more work to be done,” the ministry added in a statement, noting that Qatari authorities will continue working with the ILO to ensure reforms “are implemented effectively.”

The report mentioned a set of recommendations “that can serve as a road map for action,” said Max Tuñón, head of the ILO Project Office in Qatar.

Read also: Amnesty report provides ‘Reality Check’ on loopholes in Qatar’s labour reforms

Apart from calls for more accurate data collection and investigations, the organisation recommended Qatari health authorities to inaugurate a national integrated platform that gathers timely and reliable occupational injury data.

“We must move with urgency, as behind each statistic there is a worker and their family.”

The ILO called for a “review of the approach taken to investigating deaths of seemingly healthy young workers from ‘natural causes’, to be able to determine whether they are in fact work-related, and ensure more accurate identification of the cause.”

The aim is to ensure workers and their families are granted compensation in case of occupational injuries.

In a statement, the ministry highlighted that previous reports on migrant worker fatalities in Qatar “have been wildly misleading”.

“The government has been transparent about the health of our foreign population, and in reality, levels of mortality in Qatar are on par with wider demographics globally. Still, improving the health and well-being of foreign workers remains a top priority,” it stated.

The ministry pointed out that the latest report in fact shows a “significant decline in the rate of occupational injuries” compared to previous years, which it said demonstrates the “strong labour reform legislation and the success of our implementation mechanisms.

“Qatar is also proud to note that there has been a ‘drastic decline’ in heat-stress related disorders, thanks in large part to heat stress legislation adopted in May 2021.”

It added that it is keen to continue working “constructively with a range of labour experts and practitioners – including the ILO, trade unions and international NGOs – to build on the progress that has been made.

“Labour reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement.”

The Gulf state previously promised to improve the working conditions of migrant workers across the country amid increasing concerns over the health and safety of labourers, particularly in the construction industry. 

Most recently, the Ministry of Labour referred 314 companies to competent authorities for violating labour laws during the period of October 1 and November 15, 2021. 

The ministry stated the violations occurred in the fields of public services and construction. It said the referred companies failed to comply “with Article No.66 of the Labour law, promulgated by Law No. 14 of 2004, and amended by Law No.1 of 2015, by delaying or not complying to the payments of wages of migrant workers.”

In response, the ministry reiterated its keenness to preserve financial rights of migrant workers and its determination to continue inspections and awareness campaigns in order to monitor the implementation of Labour laws. 

Ongoing Criticism 

Doha has been facing harsh criticism since it won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 tournament back in 2010. 

Last week, rights group Amnesty International renewed its calls to protect migrant workers from “abusive practices” in Qatar, urging the Gulf state to further implement labour reforms to tackle the ongoing issue.

According to numbers provided by the GCO, 35,280 accommodation and worksite inspections were carried out in the first half of this year alone, which saw the issuance of 13,724 penalties to companies deemed to be in violation of Qatar’s labour laws.

This also led to “worksite closures, fines and prison sentences”, while an additional 4,840 visits were made to raise awareness on reforms among both employers and employees.

“Systemic reform is a long-term process and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. Through its actions, the government is sending a strong message to companies that violations will not be tolerated,” the GCO said previously.

Among the positive developments Qatar has made since winning the bid to host the World Cup was becoming the only country in the region to host the International Labour Organization’s [ILO] office, a move that is seen as proof of Doha’s commitment to addressing concerns raised over rights abuses.

The GCO stressed that Doha will continue its consultations with experts, the ILO and trade unions, highlighting the fact that labour reform is a complex task.

“The reality is that no other country has come so far in such a short amount of time. Following Qatar’s lead, and as a sign of the programme’s wider impact, other countries in the region have now taken steps to introduce their own labour reforms,” added the GCO.

Qatar ‘unfairly treated and scrutinised’

2022 World Cup Chief Executive Nasser Al-Khater said on Saturday the host nation has been “unfairly treated and scrutinised” for years, referring to criticism over its human rights record.

“There is criticism, yes, there is work that needs to be done. There is however a lot of progress.”

Al-Khater said that more credit should be given to what he described as Qatar’s “extraordinary” progress, which saw the introduction of a minimum wage and improvements to working conditions and living facilities of migrant workers.

“The amount of achievements that have been done over the past seven, eight, nine years, it’s quite extraordinary. Now unfortunately, people don’t like to report on that,” he said.

“You take it into the context of the region also. I think Qatar is a trailblazer right now with all the reform that it’s done.”

Amid concerns over lack of accommodation facilities, the World Cup official assured people that the country will create enough capacity to host all visitors attending the tournament next year in Doha.

“There will be sufficient accommodation for all the fans coming to Qatar.”

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