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Monday, June 21, 2021

Rogue manpower agencies to be named in Qatar newspapers

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With reporting from Riham Sheble

Qatar-based recruitment companies that repeatedly flout the labor law will soon be publicly identified in local newspapers, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has confirmed to Doha News.

No date has been set for when this naming and shaming practice will begin, but a MOLSA representative said the process will start “soon.”

Last week, local manpower agencies were warned about the new procedure in a letter from MOLSA. The document read, as translated into English:

“We would like to notify you that the employment department will be conducting inspection rounds/expeditions at recruitment companies. If any violation to the law number 14 for 2004 is documented and if complaints are filed three times against a company, the violating companies will be named in the local newspapers.

We ask that all recruitment companies take heed of the above and abide by the laws, wishing everyone the best.”

Manpower agencies were also sent the same information via SMS. It is not clear whether the announcements will be posted only in Arabic-language media, or in English-language newspapers as well.

Recruitment woes

According to Qatar’s labor law, it is illegal for recruitment companies “to receive from the worker any sums representing recruitment fees or expenses or any other costs.”

Additionally, “the recruitment of workers from abroad for others shall be made in accordance with a written contract between the licensed person and the employer in accordance with a model to be determined by a decision of the Minister.”

Workers

Despite these rules, many manpower firms both here and from labor-sending countries often charge exorbitant fees to workers who wish to come to the Gulf, including Qatar.

The practice has been well-documented by several international human rights groups, and most recently, in a new Qatar Foundation-backed report on recruitment tactics.

According to the report, these fees lay the groundwork for mistreatment of workers in Qatar.

Burdened with debt from the outset, migrants are less likely to speak up for their rights when faced with other abuses, such as passport confiscation and substitute contracts that dictate less favorable working terms.

The report explained:

“The individual may not want to work under the circumstances being offered, but is required to do so because the alternative of returning home empty-handed is not considered an option. Thus, he is also engaged in a form of ‘forced labour.'”

In the past, Qatar has sought to make local recruitment agencies more accountable by conducting annual evaluations that rank them with A, B or C grades. Last year, the 17 top-ranked maid agencies were rewarded with free maid visas.

Also in 2013, MOLSA announced its intention to name and shame private companies that violate the labor law on the ministry’s website. However, that list does not currently appear to be online.

Stepping up efforts

More recently, MOLSA officials have been increasing their efforts to enforce the nation’s existing labor law, as well pledging to make the kafala sponsorship system less restrictive on expats.

The move comes amid fierce international criticism in the run up to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup. It also follows the release of a government-commissioned report from DLA Piper that acknowledged systematic labor abuse and issued several recommendations to mitigate it.

In May, authorities pledged to relax no objection certificate rules to make it easier for foreigners to switch jobs here. They also spoke about changing the exit permit system into an automated process, so that expats are not wholly dependent on their sponsors’ permission to leave the country.

And just last week, the Cabinet approved a draft amendment to the labor law that would require companies to pay workers through direct deposit. This mandate would in theory make it harder for employers to delay or not pay wages to their employees.

Thoughts?

14 COMMENTS

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A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

This refers to what the user babu was referring to. Many of the Egyptians who operate these agencies are thugs and are an extension of the corrupt recuriting agencies in the maids home country.

Naming and shaming is not enough. Simply impose a visa ban on them, meaning they are no longer able to apply for maid visas crashing their business.

The best way to recruit a house maid is to simply find a house maid who you like and feel is professional and ask her if she knows of a family member or a person from her home town who would be interested to work in Doha. Interview the lady on the phone and agree her pay, days off, ticket home, how much work is expected and all such details. Then send her a plane ticket to doha.

You save 10,000 QR charged as a “service fee” by the agency and she saves about 6,000 QR or more she needs to pay as a “fee” for her fixer.

Firas Zirie
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Do you really think these “Egyptian thugs” own the agencies? Or barring that, do you honestly believe that the actual owners are not aware of the shady business practices? If you do, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Back on topic and on a less racist thought: this is a great step. Clamp down on illegal recruitment practices and clamp down hard. Naming and shaming is good, but fines and bans are even better!

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Firas Zirie

Yes and yes, and I’d be very interested in your offer of a bridge or underwater theme park.

It seems you don’t know how small local business work. I own the business as an equity holder with a fixed monthly fee paid. The business is managed by an expat who pockets 100% of all profit and suffers 100% of loses, as long as I’m paid my fixed monthly rate. The manager also takes on full liability of the business incase of litigation.

This isn’t the case for all small business but most.

Btw the agencies rated A by the ministry of labor either hand on managed by its Qatari owner or a yemani/Sudanese. Most unrated agencies are either managed by Egyptians and lebanses.

Firas Zirie
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

The system you described is literally the opposite of what “Kafala” is meant to embody. I don’t need to explain to you that “Kafeel” literally translates to “Guarantor”.

What you are describing is the sick silent partner system which results in easy profits directly resulting from the current state of the law with little to no effort involved. It is, in simple terms, skimming off the top.

Firas Zirie
6 years ago
Reply to  Firas Zirie

Let me add some extra perspective, and I don’t want to edit it all into my above comment.

I don’t know the specifics of your business case, but it is your moral (if not currently legal) obligation to ensure that persons or businesses under your name are obeying the law. Hiding behind the silent partner argument does nothing for society at large.

The abusers of the system are probably funneling money out of the country at every opportunity they can get. If they get caught, they’ll do a couple of years in jail then get deported where they will find their little nest egg waiting for them.

I hope this makes it clear. I have no qualms against requiring a majority Qatari stake in all companies. That makes a certain amount of sense. 100% indemnity is what I disagree with.

Ahmed A
Ahmed A
6 years ago
Reply to  Firas Zirie

For small business that scheme works the best, because otherwise it is very difficult to monitor all transactions. Especially if you are not going to be hands on in the business and it is predominantly a cash business (small neighborhood supermarket, car wash, small juice stall, mechanics, electricians, etc). For many its their livelihood, where the expat is happy to get his profits because he knows he has unlimited upside, and the Qatari owner is happy with a guaranteed stream of income. Unfortunately, for him the law does not let him off from full liability. He will be on the hook if the expat steals and runs off and he will have to answer to the law. He can’t use the excuse of being a silent partner.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Very true. However, maybe holding the business owner partly responsible would encourage the Qataris who are owners in name to take more responsibility and interest in what is going on, which would probably be a good thing all around. In my experience, most Qatari businessmen have more scruples than the managers who work for them.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Very good points, maybe naming and shaming is the first step with a fine and then second violation is visa ban for a period of six months, then third violation is withdrawing their commercial licence to operate.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Very good and I fully support this. If they are named then companies such as mine know not to use them.

Please extend to naming restaurants and food suppliers that you close as well!

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
6 years ago

Name and shame all the bad manpower companies. Name and shame all those companies who delay employees salary. Name and shame those companies who delay in giving payment to suppliers.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

……and name and shame all those other companies who pay their workers peanuts and expect this workers to build architectural wonders without any thoughts about their basic welfare and needs

Truth-Seeker
Truth-Seeker
6 years ago

It is sad that the government efforts came late after being named and shamed by the world media and international organizations.
I wish that the persons responsible are held accountable.
How could small local recruitment agencies get away with those severe human abuses!
Who allowed them to foster those inhumane practices?

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

Naming and shaming is a step in the right direction, but really, money talks. Fines, bans, closures- those are the ways to enforce t. As for three times- why three? They know it is illegal, so fine them straight away. Repeat offence, fine and ban. Also , include all those managers who take kick backs from the agencies, over recruiting so that workers cannot get overtime etc.
It is a disgrace, thank goodness it is finally looking as if the corruption has been laid bare. Now implement the report.

btl
btl
6 years ago

here in Qatar the question is always ” how soon is soon” ?

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