400 expats seek help after going unpaid for months in Qatar

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Indian community leaders have stepped in to help hundreds of people in Qatar who have not been paid their salaries for months.

The cases come despite the rollout of the Wage Protection System (WPS) in November, which has made it more difficult for companies to skip or delay paying wages.

The construction and office staff in question work for UAE-based group ETA in its Doha office.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Rosepinkqatar/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Doha News, one office staffer there blamed a management change for irregular wages and non-payments.

The new bosses said a lack of money was the problem, added the employee, who asked to remain unnamed.

Survival

Without money, many of the unpaid workers who live in the Industrial Area have been surviving on running credit with their local baqala.

“ETA only provides the accommodation,” an ETA employee told Doha News.

Meanwhile, some employees have left ETA after filing labor disputes with the firm.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shyam Kumar, an ex-project manager with the company, told Doha News he resigned in February and received three months’ outstanding salary in May, only after filing a court case.

He now has another job offer, but ETA has refused to give him an NOC. The firm has also not yet paid his end-of-service benefits, he added.

On how he has survived for the past six months, Kumar told Doha News:

“I have relocated my family to India and have shifted to a sharing accommodation at Ezdan Village 3 at Wakra.

Right now, I am living off my savings that I had parked back home.”

Seeking help

This week, unpaid employees got in touch with the Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF), which works under the Indian Embassy in Doha.

Arvind Patil, president of ICBF, told Doha News:

“I was approached by one of the unpaid employees of ETA and I have raised the matter with the Indian Embassy and asked the employees to attend the open house that is likely to be held the following weekend.”

ETA’s HR head could not be reached to discuss the case, and the Indian embassy has declined to comment.

But Gulf Times reports that the embassy has summoned the company “more than twice” about non-payment problems.

Embassy of India, Doha's new premises in Onaiza, Doha.

Neha Rashid/Doha News

Embassy of India

“However, the employer has been non-committal on the payment of the arrears,” the newspaper added.

Speaking to AFP earlier this week, Patil said that the ICBF would extend monetary help if fewer people needed help, but that in this instance, it would be “very, very difficult.”

He told Doha News that instead, the ICBF extends material help – mostly via food stuff – collected from its donors.

“Of our total database, some 50 to 100 are active donors who extend help in times of crisis such as this one,” Patil said.

However, he added, “We do not have the space to store food supplies for more than 50 to 60 people at the most, at any given point of time.”

Wage protection system

Under WPS, companies must electronically pay employees’ salaries in a timely manner or face sanctions.

Gulf Times reports that ETA has already been blacklisted for violating WPS terms, meaning it can’t make new hires temporarily.

More than a dozen men wait to use the ATMs at City Center Mall.

Shabina S. Khatri

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But it remains unclear how its workers can claim unpaid wages or how the Qatari courts can help them.

For this reason, many people in Qatar have viewed WPS with skepticism. 

The unpaid ETA employee who spoke to Doha News said:

“I am a victim and have not received my salary for the past three months. If the management comes to know I have spoken to the media, I will be terminated without any reason and will not be paid my end-of-service benefits.”

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