Qatar sets standards to protect workers’ rights

February 12, 2014 - 4:37:37 am

DOHA: Qatar yesterday released a set of standards to protect the rights of workers involved in mega projects associated with the 2022 FIFA World Cup and announced measures to hold the contractors accountable for any breach.

The Workers Welfare Standards, released by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy will address “some of the most critical concerns highlighted in recent reports about working and living conditions of workers in Qatar’s construction sector,” the committee said yesterday. 

The standards require contractors to set up bank accounts for their workers, which will help facilitate payment, creating an auditable transaction system that will help the Supreme Committee verify that all workers are being paid in full and on time.

The standards also include comprehensive specifications for workers’ accommodations, setting clear guidelines for everything from the number of beds per room to a minimum standard for cleanliness and hygiene.  The Supreme Committee has the right to penalise contractors who fail to comply with the mandatory Workers Welfare Standards.

The committee said, in extreme cases, it could terminate its contract with a company that is continually breaching the standards. However, “a focus is being placed on working with contractors to improve standards on a continuous basis.”

If the contractors do not demonstrate any improvement, there are legal mechanisms in all contracts which allow the Supreme Committee to step in and fix the problem at the contractors’ expense. The committee will report such incidents to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Central Tenders Committee, jeopardising the contractor’s ability to undertake future projects in Qatar. 

The committee has also initiated several measures on the ground. On January 13, its Workers’ Welfare Committee conducted its first successful inspection of workers’ accommodation for Al Wakrah Stadium.  This accommodation currently houses 38 workers, currently engaged on Supreme Committee construction projects. 

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has intensified inspections at labour accommodations. The Ministry increased the number of trained labour inspectors by 30 percent over the past six months and conducted 11,500 spot checks in the past three months. A total of 306 companies have been classified and their performance will be published to workers and owners.

The release of the welfare standards coincided with the beginning of  important  work on the first proposed host venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Al Wakrah. Four other stadia will be in different phases of construction throughout the year, the committee said.

The new standards have been incorporated in all contracts of the Supreme Committee. They are aligned with Qatari Labour Law and international best practices and set clear guidelines to protect the rights of workers throughout the entire chain of contracting, from recruitment to repatriation.

“We have always believed that Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup would be a catalyst to accelerate positive initiatives already being undertaken by Qatar, which will leave a legacy of enhanced, sustainable and meaningful progress in regards to worker welfare across the country. We already see this progress taking place across Qatar on a daily basis, and will continue to work hard to make our vision become the ever-present reality on the ground,’ said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

In the development of the welfare standards, the Committee engaged the International Labour Organisation, to look at the entire process from recruitment to living and working conditions.  

Enforcement of the standards will be through a four-tier audit system, implemented with the support of independent third-party auditors. Progress reports based on the audits are to be made public to track progress and share lessons learnt with government stakeholders and the international community.

Representatives from the Supreme Committee and Qatar Foundation, are planning to meet in the coming months to discuss adopting a unified standard.

The Peninsula

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