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7 Sep 2021

GCC: Podcast highlights the plight of Nepali construction workers during the pandemic; incl. non-payment of wages & forced labour

Mustafa Qadri and Rameshwar Nepal of Equidem discuss the impact of covid 19 on Nepali construction workers in the Gulf as well as the patterns of labour abuses faced by them.

Nepali workers have been hit hard by the pandemic; many workers, including those involved in World Cup and Dubai Expo projects, have lost their jobs and income, and were unable to secure their basic needs. Many have their jobs terminated by employers without prior notice and without receiving their due payments.

According to Qadri, workers in the Gulf may face profonde risks speaking out about labour abuses and employers' practices, due to the “huge level of surveillance and strict criminal and national security laws”. Workers may be subject to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, inhumane treatment in detention. Employers may also physically abuse workers and have their visas revoked.

Speaking about the patterns of abuses, Rameshwar said that the main problem faced by workers was non-payment of wages. Also, many employers have terminated workers without notice and without paying them their benefits and providing them with flight tickets to return home. Workers had to take loans with up to 60 % annual interest in order to buy flights tickets. Moreover, many employers did not provide safety equipment to workers, such as gloves, sanitisers and masks.

Qadri added that due to the discriminatory laws and weak labour protection, it was easier for employers either to decide to keep workers on but pay them less or fire them and not pay them.