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Friday, February 26, 2021

Qatari Diar warns construction companies against violating labor law

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lusail rendering

Amid growing criticism of labor conditions inside one of its key developments, a senior official at the Qatari Diar has said that the company will not tolerate contractors who flout health and safety regulations.

Speaking at a lecture series yesterday held by the Lusail Real Estate and Development Company (LREDC), Salem Rashed Al Kuwari, the Diar’s senior director of Health, Safety and Environment, said:

“There are some companies who are doing a great job, and we reward them, but there are other companies who are not paying their employees on time or taking care of their health and safety at work place. They should not be in business. I will not wait for the Ministry of Labour to intervene.

We will not work with such companies who do not take safety seriously, either locally or internationally. They are at risk of slowing our projects and tarnishing our reputation. I hope my message is clear. We will not tolerate bad performance.”

Al Kuwari’s remarks follow a bridge collapse in Lusail that injured more than a dozen workers in September, and a media report in the Guardian weeks later containing interviews from Lusail employees complaining about working and living conditions.

After the bridge incident, in which 18 men were injured when steel rods fell on top of them, Lusail halted onsite construction for days to conduct an investigation into what happened. But the contractor on that site – Midmac – has not commented, and Lusail did not elaborate on the cause of the accident.

Enforcement

According to the Peninsula, Lusail will enforce working conditions based on “aggressive observation, inspection and audit.”

The newspaper quotes Sandy Hines, HSE Supervisor at Parsons, which is the project management and construction management consultant for Lusail, as saying:

“We monitor all construction packages, all developers and all site visitors to Lusail City, so be aware. Parsons will be initiating documentation based on aggressive observation, inspection and audit. We are checking every project.

What we expect from you as project managers, engineers, designers and so on is to leave today with an understanding that safety issues are for everyone. It is an issue from the lowest level to senior management.”

It is unclear how Lusail’s new policy will affect its ability to meet project deadlines. The development, reportedly the largest single real estate project in Qatar, has already missed key milestones over the past two years, and its first tenants are slated to move in by the end of this year.

A spokesman for Lusail could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Other large, state-backed companies here, including Qatar Foundation, have also talked tough about protecting workers’ rights in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup.

But regulating corporations’ numerous contractors and subcontractors has proved tricky. For example, when bus drivers working under a subcontractor at the Qatar National Convention Center threatened strike action last month over unpaid wages, QF distanced itself from the issue, saying it was a matter for the subcontractor to handle.

Thoughts?

16 COMMENTS

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Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

“Lusail will enforce working conditions based on “aggressive observation, inspection and audit.” God I hope so.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

I could see the worlds media going after international companies like Parsons/Bechtel/AECOM etc and putting pressure on them through shareholder meetings and in their home countries.

If they are forced by their owners and public opinion to enforce better working conditions and safety then it could be an interesting conflict between them and their Qatari clients, as the clients push for schedules to be met as the most important thing rather than payment of workers or their safety at work.

However on the positive side it is good to see these issues being aired, in many other countries in the groin the low paid, (or not paid at all) have no one to fight their corner.

sadam
sadam
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

only LOCAL contractors display blatant disregard for safety and exploit workers.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  sadam

Well not quite true, the big international contractors such as Bechtel are usually the prime contractor on a job and therefore are responsible for the activities of the sub contractors. This also includes enforcing HSE regulations.

Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Agreed. Bechtel and others have a responsibility to monitor their subcontractors

dubious
dubious
7 years ago
Reply to  Ryan Miller

My experience with Bechtel is that they take H+S very seriously. I’d imagine most large multinationals do since they tend to homologate their H+S rules to fit the most ‘restrictive’ environment they work in.

Global Citizen
Global Citizen
7 years ago

“Midmac hasn’t commented yet”.
Surely a contractor like Midmac which is owned by Qatari Diars ex Chairman should know & be enforcing Qatari Diars own health & safety if not they know where to find him.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
7 years ago

Wow, someone showing some initiative and leadership at the executive level – what a pleasant surprise, well done. Now for the follow-up.

Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller
7 years ago

Not so fast… I too am glad for these statements, but they are still just statements. Hold your praise until you see some actual action. What happened to the contractor responsible for the bridge collapse? Are they still a contractor working on the project? Is this just more empty talk and hollow threats to appease the media?

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
7 years ago

It is encouraging to read that H&S will be taken seriously and enforced. We all know of the issues- we have all seen poorly managed construction projects with scant regard for the safety of workers, and have all been made aware of the furore in the Western media . The west forgets how recently H&S was flouted every working day, resulting in hundreds of deaths each year and thousands of injuries. I know in the UK how assiduously HSE works, yet still there are accidents, either through carelessness, mismanagement or misfortune- in the UK alone almost 150 deaths last year and over 250,000 accidents. The industry is the most dangerous of any.
It is now up to the major contractors to ensure they do all they can to fulfill responsibilities, to ensure their subs do so, for Project managers to regulate and monitor and , of course, for Clients to understand how vital this all is. Legislation is great, enforcement is wonderful, but the bottom line is the will to ensure safe practice as the norm.

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

250,000 is a bit misleading comparing here to the USA/UK. In the west if you bang your thumb with a hammer that’s an accident. You twist your ankle, that’s an accident. Numerous inane incidents HAVE to be reported under (OSHA in USA) labor laws. I got a bad paper cut at work one time and almost got in trouble since I didn’t report it. Thought silly but OSHA regs are serious. If you’re more than 4 feet off the ground you must be tied in to a safety harness system. I’ve seen guys here working at the airport on a step ladder tied off onto a safety harness. But they worked for an American company(Bechtel) and that’s the reg.

Here it’s NO Blood, NO Foul mentality. Kind of like Brit football. : )

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
7 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

desertcard- the figures are from the UK HSE, not mine, and the 250,00 injuries relates to injuries requiring at least three days absence from work after treatment. I am not suggesting that those figures minimize any injuries in Qatar, far from it. Clearly the numbers as a percentage of workforce would be helpful, but I don’t have those, however approx. 2million people are employed in the UK construction industry.
As for reporting minor injuries- if a so called minor injury such as the quoted sprained ankle then turns out to have damaged soft tissue or tendon meaning that the person could no longer do the work they were doing before, of has to have a long time off work, then having reported it protects that person employment rights and could have a bearing on benefits, compensation etc. I for one have great respect for the HSE and its legislation. It may all be common sense, but there are plenty of people who don’t have much of that. A helpline in Qatar to report instances by the public would make a huge impact- most of us wouldn’t know who to contact with our concerns.
Lastly, the larger construction and project management companies should take the lead visually and verbally to demonstrate their commitment- it seems to be the smaller subcontractors who ignore the requirements.

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

I’m not arguing with you just stating that the numbers and kinds of injuries reported in UK/US would probably not elicit a response here. The most minor of things MUST be reported even if no time was taken off. Here I doubt so much. Hence the NO Blood, No Foul comment. That’s where I think the western companies, i.e. Bechtel, have done their job. I’ve seen, been to, their safety training and safety meetings and see how serious those in charge of safety take their job on site. They’ve done a good job in making their sub contractors toe the line hence the, I think, 0 fatalities while building something as immense as the airport.

Kingpin
Kingpin
7 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Actually there was only 39 construction work related deaths in the UK last year.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/STATISTICS/industry/construction/index.htm

This is a rate of 2 per 100,000 or a 0.002%, a statistic the UK is justly proud of. Additionally the graph on the link above shows this rate has been declining since 1982. Due mostly to strictly enforced health and safety legislation.

sadam
sadam
7 years ago

Midmac has a good safety culture/policy . just my 2 cents.

Ano
Ano
7 years ago

Salem Rashed Al Kuwari,kudos to you. I respect your statement.let this be a start…:)

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