By Michael Oche,
The African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has described as a welcomed development news of the amendment of the labour laws in Qatar which removes restrictions to migrant workers’ ability to change jobs and employers at their choosing following a notice period.
A statement signed by her General Secretary, Comrade Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, the regional body said the removal of the employer permission regime will make employment relations, especially for migrant workers more humane and a facilitator for better labour migration governance.
LEADERSHIP reports that the employee restriction is one of the conditions tied to the Kafala sponsorship system that most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and Middle East countries utilize in the recruitment of migrant workers.
There have been and continue to be reports of harrowing abuses that migrants, including African labour migrants, suffer on account of the kafala regime. In fact, loads of researches and reports have a unison conclusion that the kafala system and practice of labour migrants’ recruitment encourage, deepen and sustain forced labour and modern-day slavery.
While commending the Qatar government, Adu-Amankwah noted that the removal of the restriction condition will also significantly eliminate the slavery-like relationship tied to the kafala sponsorship employment system.
The Pan African trade union umbrella body that represents over 17 million organised workers in 52 of the 54 African countries also lauded the decision of the Gulf State of Qatar to also establish a new national minimum wage, which is to be enjoyed by all categories of workers.
In the words of Mr. Adu-Amankwah, “the ITUC-Africa is thrilled that the State of Qatar has equally established a Minimum Wage Commission that is charged with the periodic review of the national minimum wage rate. The subsequent reviews will be based on evidence of the cost of living and will take into account the responsibilities of migrant workers to their families at home”.
Following the amendment to the law, the new minimum wage now stands at QAR 1800 (493USD) for workers without food and accommodation been provided for them by their employers.
Those that enjoy employers’ providing decent accommodation but no food will earn QAR 1500 (410 USD). Migrant workers whose employers provide food and accommodation will earn a minimum wage of 1000 QAR (274 USD). All workers without discrimination will enjoy the national minimum wage.
The government of Qatar has given employers up to six months to comply with the new regulations, saying failure to comply with the implementation directives will attract sanctions, which include suspending the operations of the recruiting company and suspending individual operations for those employing domestic workers.
The ITUC-Africa however said whilst Qatar has continued to demonstrate real and genuine commitments to advance the better protection and promotion of the human and labour rights of labour migrants, other GCC States notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being the two biggest labour migrants employers within the GCC arrangement are lethargically slow to change.
The statement reads further, “Worse still, there are signs and reports that these countries, especially Saudi Arabia are regressing on migrants’ human and labour rights guarantees. A recent UK’s Sunday Telegraph report gave a harrowing and unacceptable account of how the government of Saudi Arabia is maltreating African migrants during COVID-19 containment measures.
“The newspaper reported that scores of African migrants were locked up in inhabitable shelters, some tortured and starved.”
Also speaking on the growing concerns of Saudi Arabia’s maltreatment of African migrants, Comrade Akhator Joel Odigie, the Deputy General Secretary of the ITUC-Africa called on the African Union to investigate the Sunday Telegraph’s report and to demand that Saudi Arabia makes restitution.
He added that African organised labour will continue to work with her allies to continue to pile pressure on Saudi Arabia to dismantle her labour migration kafala system and embrace accountability.