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12 Apr 2016

Pete Pattisson, Guardian (UK)

Balfour Beatty and Interserve accused of migrant worker labour abuses in Qatar

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Balfour Beatty and Interserve, two of the UK’s largest construction companies, have been accused of a raft of labour abuses by migrant workers employed on large-scale projects operated by companies that the firms co-own in Qatar. The Guardian spoke to more than a dozen migrant workers, all of whom requested to remain anonymous due to fears of losing their jobs.

Labourers on construction sites operated by BK Gulf, co-owned by Balfour Beatty, and Gulf Contracting Company (GCC), co-owned by Interserve, allege that they have been exploited and mistreated by labour supply companies hired by the firms...The alleged abuses include erratic or reduced payment of wages, passport confiscation, workers entering employment with high levels of debt bondage, and pay levels below those agreed when workers were recruited in their home countries…a culture of fear and intimidation, with threats of arrest or deportation...[the companies]  said they were working within the parameters of Qatari law and rigorously monitored their labour supply companies to ensure good practice...[and] denied that they retained passports as a way of restricting workers’ movements.