A discredited ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) approach is being used to paper over the cracks of Qatari labour law, which is failing to protect migrant workers, warns the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC, said Qatar is a state being managed as a corporation, as the Government fails to take responsibility for workers in the country.
A raft of ‘workers’ charters’ have been announced from the Qatar Foundation and Q2022 Supreme Committee, yet none of these documents have been released to the public or discussed with unions, and workers remain in the dark about their rights.
“Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, is using the CSR model used by multinationals in developing countries that has cost hundreds of lives – most recently in factory fires in Bangladesh.
“Starting on the CSR path, without addressing the weakness of the labour law, is bad for workers, bad for business and bad for the country,” said Sharan Burrow.
The charters are subject to national Qatari laws – which do not meet UN international standards. The ITUC has written to the Qatar 22 Supreme Committee expressing disappointment with the process and content of their Workers’ Charter.
“Migrant workers in Qatar are no more protected by these charters than they are under Qatari law.
“International unions will continue to campaign for all workers in Qatar to have the right to form and join a union and collective bargain – rights enshrined in international standards,” said Sharan Burrow.
The pressure for Qatar and Gulf countries to address abuses of workers has been growing in recent months.
A new study on human trafficking by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) showed expat workers in the Middle East are among the most likely group of people to become victims of forced labour.
The report highlighted the restrictive Kafala (sponsorship) system as “inherently problematic” creating an unequal power dynamic between employer and worker.
“Loopholes in the Qatari labour law mean that migrant workers in Qatar are not allowed to end unfair employment contracts or change employers, creating conditions of 21st century slavery.
“Reform of Qatari labour law to meet international standards is the only way to give workers in Qatar their rights,” said Sharan Burrow.