A Doha-based firm continues to breach Qatar’s extensive labour reforms as workers are refused salaries for four months.
Al Jazira, a construction, real estate, and auto service firm in Qatar has allegedly not paid at least 23 of its workers their salary for more than three months, sources told Doha News.
Workers have also told TV filmmaker Benjamin Best that the Doha-based company also confiscated some of their passports in an effort to limit their movements and prevent them from changing jobs— an act that is illegal in the Gulf state. At least eight of the workers have had their passports confiscated.
Qatar – Another cry for help: Kenyan workers have not been paid for months. They are telling me that their situation is really bad. Some don't have their passport. They have been threatened with deportation. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/rYojEVmfpz
— Benjamin Best (@bpbest) January 30, 2022
After not receiving their salary since October, the workers asked if they could change jobs in order to make a living somewhere else, but the company allegedly refused, stating that they will “not allow it’.
Before the Kafala system was dismantled in 2020, migrant workers needed to obtain their employer’s permission by obtaining a ‘no-objection certificate (NOC)’ before changing jobs. The law had previously allowed several workers to be exploited and caused an unequal power balance between workers and their employers, according to activists. However, despite the amendment of the law, some private companies continue to flaunt it.Last month the company refused to sign their workers’ resignation letter to prevent them from leaving or moving jobs
Now, the company is giving them three choices: to go back to their home countries, to stay, or to change jobs. However, none of these choices guarantee payments for their work.
In December, some of the security guards went on strike to protest their mistreatment. They were met by deportation and financial threats. “They said if we don’t come back to work they will send us back to Kenya or we will not get our NOCs. But we have not gotten or salary for months.. we don’t know what to do,” a source told Doha News.
The workers are staying in a “horrible” accommodation, with some claiming that their colleagues are sick from lack of health and safety standards. Workers also told Doha News that the company has also not paid their accommodation rent for almost six months.
Best told Doha News that the workers reported the company twice to the police, but no action has been taken yet, only that their cases have been forwarded to the CID. They also reported their case to the Ministry of Labour.
“We went there and they told us that we will be paid and that we should go back to work,” one of the workers said.
Doha News contacted the Government Communications Office but received no reply at the time of publication.
In December alone, over 2,000 thousand labour complaints have been made to the Ministry of Labour against companies and establishments across the country. Many more have been made in recent months over working hours, salary, and several other violations.
A recent report also revealed that a migrant worker from Nepal working at a Corniche project along with a number of his colleagues did not receive their salaries for four months.
“Every day we nourish ourselves on water and bread. Without money we can’t do anything else. Month on month our situation gets worse and worse. I’m not sure how much longer I can do it,” Dil Prasad, a Nepali worker said at the time.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Previously the ministry launched an investigation and fined companies but such violations continue to happen frequently despite labour reforms.
Workers say that some companies find loopholes to exploit them or use tactics to prevent them from their full rights. With thousands of complaints monthly, the Ministry of Labour seems to have their hands full.
Qatari authorities have yet to respond to Doha News’ request for a comment.