Qatar: Migrant workers protest delayed wages & poor working conditions

A video and images circulating online appear to show hundreds of migrant workers taking part in strikes in Qatar over the 4th and 5th August. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and media report the workers are protesting against poor working conditions, wage delays and the threat of reduced salaries. Workers interviewed by Al Jazeera also reported poor living conditions and alleged that their employers had failed to renew their work permits or isse them with certificates to allow them to change employer.

According to reports, hundreds of workers employed by two construction companies, Tashgeel Group and its partner Iskan Group, have protested wage delays of up to five months. No detailed information has been made publicly available on other employers of striking workers. Protesters have reportedly been striking at two locations, Labour City, a migrant labour accommodation, and Shahaniyeh municipality, where a local resident also confirmed the strike and workers’ wage demands.

Significantly, video evidence shows a heavy, yet unengaged, police presence at the protest. Workers were allowed to continue protesting despite Qatari legislation severely curtailing workers’ rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association. One protesting worker reported that officials from the labour ministry were present.

HRW called on the Qatari government to amend the labour law including to allow workers to escape abusive employment conditions and to guarantee the right to strike. A Qatari government official responded to HRW on twitter that they are conducting an investigation into the migrants’ allegations; a statement was issued on 17th August. 

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre contacted Tashgeel Group for a response to these allegations, but was unable to reach Iskan Group.  Tashgeel Group did not respond. 

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Company non-response
25 September 2019

Tashgeel Group did not respond

20 September 2019

Renewed calls for Qatar to address treatment of migrant workers

Author: Faras Ghani, Al Jazeera

In August, there were calls for Qatar to completely "remove the power imbalance between employees and the employers" after at least 5,000 workers took to the streets to protest salary delays and working conditions.

Employees of Iskan and Tashgeel, working on construction projects throughout Qatar, staged peaceful strikes on August 4 and 5 near their accommodation camps in Shahaniya...

Protesting workers, mostly from Bangladesh, told Al Jazeera that in addition to poor living conditions, they had not been paid for four months, the companies had failed to renew their work permits... and were not given the required letters that would allow them to switch employers.

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17 August 2019

Statement by the Government Communications Office regarding the results of the investigation into the peaceful strike by workers in the Al Shahaniya area

Author: Qatar Government Communications Office

On 4 August 2019, guest workers in the Al Shahaniya area conducted a peaceful strike in response to the non-payment of salaries... in May, June and July 2019. An investigation was immediately launched and the authorised signatories of the two companies in question were arrested... the investigation confirmed that salaries had been delayed following a period of negative cash flow... 

outstanding salaries of all workers were paid in full through the Wage Protection System (WPS). Workers also have the right to change their employer due to the violation of Qatar's labour laws. The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) is coordinating with all workers.

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8 August 2019

Migrant workers in Qatar hold rare strikes over conditions as 2022 World Cup looms

Author: Josie Ensor, The Telegraph (UK)

Migrant labourers in Qatar have been holding rare strikes... Thousands took part in two demonstrations over the last week in protest at delayed salaries and “inhuman” conditions. Videos from the protests show workers wearing yellow vests gathered on a street near the capital Doha. “We have not been paid for four months and we have not taken any leave since 2013,” one protester says. “The water we are given is not fit for human consumption"...

“This week’s protests shows how desperate many [workers] have become, willing to risk being fired or deported fighting for their rights,” [Hiba Zayadin, HRW researcher] said. “But Qatar has not cracked down as expected, which might indicate they are worried about international criticism.”

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8 August 2019

Qatar: Migrant Workers Strike Over Work Conditions

Author: Human Rights Watch

Hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar went on strike this week to protest what they say are poor working conditions, unpaid and delayed wages, and threats of reduced wages, Human Rights Watch said today.

One migrant worker at a Qatari company that provides maintenance, cleaning, plumbing, and other services, told Human Rights Watch that he and between 800 and 1,000 other employees refused to report to work on August 5, 2019. The employee said there had been repeated threats from management to deport the workers if they refused to sign new contracts substantially reducing their wages. Hamad International Airport, Qatar’s main airport, is among the company’s clients.

Five police vehicles arrived on site [ of the strike] .... but that they did not try to disperse the protesters.

While positive, reforms [ aimed at improving migrant worker conditions] have not gone far enough, and implementation has been uneven. 

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