New labour laws a historic breakthrough for migrant workers in Qatar

September 4, 2020

New laws announced and adopted by the Government of Qatar represent a historic leap in the protection of migrant workers’ rights in the Gulf State.

These new laws together with the removal of the exit permit system earlier this year effectively eliminates the kafala system of modern slavery.

The latest labour reforms which include the introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage for migrant workers and also changes that allow all migrant workers to now freely leave their employers to change jobs or seek alternative employment is a historic breakthrough.

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “The ITF welcomes this genuinely historic breakthrough for the protection of workers’ rights and congratulate the Qatari Government, the ILO and the global trade union movement for bringing about this change which will give workers more freedoms, more protections and promote decent work for all migrant workers in Qatar.”

“We have said previously that the dismantling of the kafala systems represents a sea change for all transport workers, in aviation, in ports, and in public transport – these reforms consolidate previous commitments.”

“The ITF will now continue to work with the Government of Qatar to guarantee to build labour and social protections for transport workers in line with international standards and best practice,” said Cotton.

These commitments build on the agreement that the ITF signed in 2018 with Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Project Office in Qatar to ensure decent work for transport workers through the Technical Cooperation Programme between Qatar and the ILO (TCP).

Under the reforms announced on Sunday, 400,000 migrant workers will have a 33 percent increase in their wages. The minimum wage of QAR 1800 (USD 494) including food and accommodation will cover all workers, including domestic workers.

As explained by the ITUC, the minimum wage for migrant workers’ and domestic workers has three levels depending on employer contributions:

  • QAR 1000 with food and decent accommodation provided by the employer;
  • QAR 1500 with decent accommodation provided by the employer but without food;
  • QAR 1800 without accommodation or food provided by the employer.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow commented that the new laws adopted by the State of Qatar are a game changer in the protection of workers’ rights.

“Qatar has regularised its industrial relations system and dismantled the systematic power imbalance between workers and employers. These changes are a break with the past and offer a future for migrant workers in Qatar underpinned by laws which respect workers, along with grievance and remedy systems,” said Burrow.

“The first non-discriminatory minimum wage in the Gulf States, based on cost of living evidence will see twenty percent of migrant workers in Qatar receive an increase in their wages. The new minimum wage will be applied regardless of the amount stated in a worker’s employment contract,” added Burrow.

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