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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Security company faces penalty for breaking Qatar labour law


The ministry said the company’s contract violated the September 2020 reformed labour law.

Qatari authorities launched an investigation into a possible breach in labour law after a peaceful protest by a group of security guards last week as well as several worker complaints.

The workers, all employees of European Security [EGSSCO], one of the largest security companies in Qatar, accused their employer of refusing to adjust their pay as per updated labour laws in the Gulf state. The protest was designed to demand an increase in their salary to meet the minimum wage set by the reformed labour law, sources told Doha News.

However, authorities found that under the new contract terms, all workers’ salaries were in line with the new minimum wage threshold, a government official told Doha News.

Under the new contract provided by the company, workers are to receive QR 1,000 [275 USD]  as basic salary – in line with the minimum wage – as well as QR 300 per month for food allowance. Accommodation is also provided by the security company.

“The authorities were alerted to an employment dispute at European Guardian & Security Services Co (EGSSCO) after receiving several complaints from its workers. An investigation was immediately launched and found that, under the new contract terms, all workers’ salaries were in line with the new minimum wage thresholds,” a government official emphasised.

Read also: Public awareness on labour law changes ‘low’: survey

However, authorities found that the new contract had included terms that violate the labour law’s non-compete clause.

According to sources, EGSSCO’s new contract has a clause that would restrict workers’ ability to change jobs. The contract states that the security guards must work for the company for at least five years and are not allowed to switch jobs during this period, a clear violation of the now scrapped No Objection Certificate [NOC]. 

Qatar swiftly intervenes to resolve salary issues after workers’ protest

Since the revelation, authorities confirmed they’ve taken necessary steps to ensure the workers’ rights are met and resolved the violation with the owner.

“The authorities also found the authorised signatory had included terms in the new contract that violate the labour law’s non-compete clause. The owner of the company has been informed of the violation and the issue is being resolved by all parties,” a government official told Doha News.

Authorities also said EGSSCO has yet to submit the new contract of employment to the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) as workers have not yet signed the document. Thus, authorities were not aware of the violation, since it was not yet official.

The government official said in a statement that if the contracts were sent to the relevant department at the ministry in its current form, the new contract would be rejected.

“In the case of EGSSCO, the new contract offered to employees violates the law amended in September 2020 to abolish restrictions that could restrict a worker’s ability to change jobs,” he said.

“Workers who do not wish to continue their employment at EGSSCO can terminate their contract by providing written notice and completing the appropriate notice period. Once terminated, workers are free to find another employer in Qatar for a period of three months before their visa expires.”

The Qatari government has urged all employees who believe a violation of the labour law has occurred to contact ADLSA via the Amerni app or directly at the Ministry. All complaints are recorded and dealt with in the strictest confidence, officials stressed.

Historic labour reforms

Last year, Qatar introduced the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage as part of a major ‘historic labour reform’ programme.

In addition to the minimum monthly basic wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals QR (275 USD), the new legislation stipulates that employers must pay allowances of at least QR 300 for food and QR 500 for housing, should employers not provide workers with these directly.

As part of the major labour reform agenda, Qatar has drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors, according to an announcement made by the Government Communications Office (GCO).

Employers who pay their staff less than the minimum wage will face one-year in jail and a QR 10,000 fine.

Read also: Qatar says labour reforms ‘far from complete’ following Amnesty ‘Reality Check’ migrant report

In March, the GCO also said that since the reforms and new minimum wage were announced in September 2020, some 5,252 companies with a total of 222,042 workers have already updated their payroll systems.

The labour reforms also include the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system, becoming the first country in the region to do so.

Workers are no longer required to obtain an exit permit to leave the country, or a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to request permission from former employers to change jobs.

In an exclusive interview with Doha News , senior International Labour Organisation (ILO) official, Houtan Homayounpour said more work needs to be done to ensure the protection of workers in Qatar, though authorities should be recognised for the work that has gone into making these changes.

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