Despite enjoying better living conditions than most of Qatar’s blue-collar expats, the construction workers tasked with building the country’s first World Cup stadium are paid just as little as everyone else, the Guardian has reported.
During a recent visit to Qatar, the newspaper’s reporters spoke to workers who said that they make QR900/month, plus QR225 for food allowance (a total of $308).
Pay slips also showed that some of the men had not been paid the proper overtime wages outlined by a 50-page worker’s rights charter that Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) released in February.
The committee is responsible for preparing the host stadiums ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and the Al Wakrah stadium is the first facility under construction.
According to the charter, companies could lose their contracts with the SCDL if they do not pay employees in a timely manner, provide medical care to workers and ensure access to sanitary living conditions, among other stipulations.
Speaking about the working and living conditions of the Al Wakrah stadium employees in March, the SCDL said that some 108 men had been hired to work on the project eight hours a day, six days a week.
They ate three meals a day and had access to internet, television and recreational facilities. But at that time, the SCDL declined to discuss the wages of the employees when asked by Doha News.
Though contractor Amana, which the Guardian singled out over the failure to pay adequate overtime wages, is in violation of the SCDL’s charter, the company was hired before the new working conditions had been laid out, the committee said in a statement.
Amana has also been working with the SCDL to improve conditions, the statement continued:
“SC audits have verified that all workers are paid on time by electronic transfer once per month. However, as has been identified, there are challenges with calculation of overtime pay and hours and we are working with the contractor to rectify any noncompliance.”
Another issue is that workers on the stadium project also said their employer had their passports, which can be construed as illegal under Qatari law.
In response to this, the SCDL said that workers were provided the option of voluntarily handing over their passports for safekeeping, and were given full access to their documents at all times. It added:
“Any involuntary confiscation of a passport, whether at Amana or any other contractor, is expressly forbidden and will be investigated.”
Speaking to Doha News, Amnesty International researcher James Lynch said the Guardian’s latest report should be “an early wake-up call for the Supreme Committee.”
“While it’s obviously good to see the efforts being made to provide decent living conditions, they have to ensure that they have the right systems in place to stamp out the less tangible forms of exploitation, particularly around pay.
In a way it is a positive thing that this report has emerged now, before the bulk of the World Cup workers have been recruited to construct stadiums. They should take a hard look at what’s gone wrong and make sure it can’t happen again.”
When the SCDL’s charter was released in February, rights groups welcomed the move as a positive first step.
But they also pointed out that the new rules would not cover the vast majority of Qatar’s hundreds of thousands of laborers, including those working on projects relevant to the World Cup, such as the rail system.
By one estimate, more than a million blue-collar workers will be needed to help the country prepare for the tournament.
But an SCDL spokesman previously told Doha News that only 55,000 to 80,000 men would be directly involved in the construction of stadiums and training facilities and thus covered by the new workers’ standards.
However, the hope has been that the charter would motivate other organizations into acting similarly, officials said.
Six months later, it is unclear if any other companies were inspired to improve their own working conditions.
However, on the government level, some changes are in the works, including a requirement to pay all workers their wages by direct bank transfer.
Other moves that have been discussed but not yet implemented include the relaxing of the exit permit system and a provision that would make it easier for expats to change jobs.
For now, despite their low pay, workers on the Al Wakrah stadium site continue to be treated better than most low-income expats in Qatar.
According to a 2011 survey of 1,000 laborers by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, the average blue-collar expat here makes QR800-QR1100 a month ($219-$300). The figure is one that almost 70 percent said they were unhappy about.
Additionally, one-third of those questioned had never received their wages on time, about half lived in a room with six beds and 13 percent said they wanted to go home.
Applaud the unbiased reporting (no pun intended)…
Let me ask a simple question – how many of us read the T&Cs that we accept at multiple occasions during our daily life? Examples – installing a software, hospital forms, car workshops, governmental forms, subscribing to online services, etc.
And even if a few do, how many of them take exception and are still able to get them modified to suit them without being denied straight away?
If the answer to these questions is abysmally small fractions, how would a unskilled worker landing on a foreign soil put forth his demand that his passport not be taken away from him after signing a flurry of papers probably written in foreign language (even English is foreign to them)? For him, it would be “what everybody is doing is what he is doing.” And if safe-keeping is the concern, how can we than trust the guys for keeping their money and follow rules but not safe-keep the passport? My simple view is STOP LYING and masquerading the problem.
When it comes to workers rights’ protection, the right to organize and collectively put forth the requirements is the only way to ensure things are balanced between employer and employee. Latest example which go unpublished in local media here is what happened in Oman…
It is simple that where none of the systems relating to workforce like Labour administration, laws / rules implementation and grievance redressal is practically un-reachable (due to variety of reasons like cost, language, information, legal advice, etc.) for a single employee acting on his own, the only way to strike balance is to let them organize and represent within a framework. And these limitations apply equally to everyone, not just the unskilled labour at work-sites but to all who work in big towers on west-bay.
I have always been a big fan of how Oman has been trying to blend the modern and proper practices with the practices that prevail in this region. Hope we can work on the same mind-set what governs the Oman changes.
Unions are the answer but can you imagine the authorities allowing this to happen? This would involve giving power to the people. Organised and unionized people are the last thing that a gulf gov. wants.
Market forces will out. As long as contractors here are still able to get the numbers to man their jobs, the pay level won’t change. There are still literally millions of unskilled and semi skilled workers in South Asia. Pay in those countries is worse than here. The pay here is tax free. Long queues at the exchanges show that workers can still afford to send money home, which is vital to the economies of many of those countries.
Contractors who do not pay their employees should lose their licenses. The recent initiative by the government for direct account payment is a good one, and follows the UAE example. The UAE now requires all staffing and recruitment firms to be fully owned and operated by nationals. Qatar should do the same. More control can slowly choke off the abuses, which are not done by Qataris, but by other nationals managers.
Oman is quite a different example. It has a much larger indigenous population, and has been training them for decades. Qatar has no other option than to bring contract workers from all over the world.
So because they are paid less in other countries, this make’s it right? Very twisted logic there.
So because they are paid less in other countries this makes it right? Very twisted logic there.
So because they are paid less in other countries, this makes it right? Very twisted logic there.
THE GUARDIAN HAS REPORTED….I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR THE SAME REPORT FROM ANY LOCAL NEWSPAPER OR FROM THE MINISTRY DIRECTLY
You must have your head buried in the sand if you think that any ministry, GN, or the Pen will publish anything detracting from the country’s perfect image, even if it’s true (obviously, to respect the upcoming cyber crime law….). Do you really believe there’s not a problem?
None of those sources have an incentive to report these things. One difference between an autocracy and a democracy is that in a democracy, competition for leadership means bad stuff gets put into the public to help advance someone’s career. In an autocracy like Qatar, where the leader Must Be A Tamim, there is no incentive to embarrass the emir, his government, or anyone close to him. In a democracy, embarassing the leader might get you a promotion; in Qatar, it gets you a jail sentence.
………………Six months later, it is unclear if any other companies were inspired to improve their own working conditions and this happens to be the sad and sorry ongoing situation . Companies and organizations don’t need to change to show others but certainly do need to change because their practices and policies are outdated and not in keeping with todays fair trade practices and the treatment of workers in general
Poorly paid, to toil in the sun all day building a giant vagina.
Thanks my laptop just drunk half my beer coz of your comment!
hahahahahahahahahahah! Me too. My keyboard is soaked now. That”s funny
My favorite part of Amana’s official response, explaining why overtime is not being paid: “there are challenges with calculation of overtime pay and hours”.
So . . . the company oversees multi-billion dollar projects and constructs massive stadiums with the latest architecture and most advanced technologies, and uses materials from all over the globe, but the math of figuring out overtime for some workers is too hard?
My thoughts exactly! #Akh
I’ll be the executives don’t have a problem calculating their overtime.
“……………..to a 2011 survey of 1,000 laborers by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee,
the average blue-collar expat here makes QR800-QR1100 a month
($219-$300). The figure is one that almost 70 percent said they were
It is never been enough when comes to salary.
Before writing and reading these articles, any body thinking that the contractors had paid their amount in time from Government / companies / departments, as per the agreement signed both parties.
Regarding workers, the company pays salary (if he worked full month) in time without any calculations. But, OT calculations will take time for calculations, processing, checking with site managers ( if they are supplied from out side, it will take more time) and it will be paid in the next month’s salary. But the worker will get one month salary + OT in every month. Dear Mr. Abdul Ghani, If the workers are not happy with their facilities including salary & OT, there are so many solutions to escape from here, once his contract is expired. No body is keeping them compulsory for long term.
Mr. Grayleg, the issue is not in recruitment, whether it is done by National or government. The problem is the payment of salary by the employer. How Government and / or national will take the responsibility of the salary, because it is the internal matter of the employer. Government can change the policies & procedures to protect the law & order and impose the fine or Jail for the employers. They doing this very successfully, better than other GCC countries. If a contractor or man power agency makes mistakes, don’t blame the complete construction Industry and / or our government. Please wait some times, every thing will be changed like in the past.
Finally, Amana is well managed company and it is impossible that they are anti workers. But there are some man power supply companies working in Qatar without proper licence for human supply (more than 95% of them are working without any licence, keeping proper records and non payment of salary in time). They brings workers to work in their sites and trading them with other companies for more profits.