Summer heat puts Qatar worker conditions back in spotlight

image

Though temperatures are already hitting 40C (104F) and above in Qatar, it will be another two weeks before summer working hours take effect for those working outdoors.

From June 15 until the end of August, companies here are required to suspend work in open areas from 11:30am to 3pm. But with 14 days to go, some employees are already buckling under the strain, Gulf Times reports:

“Workers exposed to heat conditions are finding it difficult to work even in the mornings. Heat conditions set in as early as 9am or sometimes even earlier and the mercury keeps on rising for the next 5 or 6 hours.

As a result, work is affected at most worksites across the country and the output of workers keeps falling,” said one of the engineers in charge of a major urban development in downtown Doha.

Compounding that issue for many low-income expats is poor housing conditions that give them no respite from the heat even when they’re done working for the day.

Flouting rules

Last week, the National Human Rights Committee issued a guidebook for companies, reminding them of key labor law regulations, including the housing of no more than four people per room, a ban on bunk beds and requirements for proper ventilation and natural lighting.

But on a visit to construction sites in Qatar late last month, Sharan Burrow, the secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, said she found flagrant disregard for the rules.

In a letter addressed to the Labor Minister and shared with Doha News, she implored the department to look into six major companies under violation of the law, including: 

  • Trilogistics, which requires up to 12 people to share a room and to 24 people to share a cooking space and bathroom;
  • Exblowra Trading & Cont. Services Co., which “crams 350 Nepali workers in a building with only 17 rooms;” and
  • Al Mukhtar Contracting & Trading Co., which does not provide proper access to electricity to its 3,000 workers, prompting them to use generators that frequently break down. 

The Peninsula also visited several construction sites this week and found:

The living conditions at these camps remain poor. The workers said bunk beds were a common feature of labour camps. Most workers share small rooms, sleep on bunk beds and don’t get a proper place to keep their belongings. 

The cramped rooms become more uncomfortable in summer, especially if the old air conditioners stop working. At some camps, many workers share a kitchen but there is no specific area for dining.

Meanwhile, Oman and Kuwait’s summer working hours come into effect today, June 1. Like Qatar, the UAE will also commence a midday outdoor working ban on June 15, but it will last two weeks long, running through Sept. 15.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Penny Yi Wang

Load Comments