Live updates: Government announces labor reforms

Expats

Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Qatar’s Ministry of Interior has scheduled a mid-afternoon press conference today to announce changes to the country’s much-criticized labor laws.

Any loosening of the country’s sponsorship (kafala) system would be welcome by expats in Qatar, who face difficulty changing jobs and require permission to leave the country.

Today’s announcement will also be closely watched by human rights advocates, who have long argued that the current system leaves migrants – especially domestic workers and low-income laborers – vulnerable to abuse at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

We’ll keep you updated on the latest news from the press conference here, as well as reactions from around Qatar and beyond.


The full story on the proposed changes can be found here.

Victoria Scott May 14, 20142:59 pm

There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what’s about to be announced on Twitter today – and it’s clear that both expats and Qatari nationals are eagerly awaiting news.

Some have cautioned against high expectations:

And Qatari tweeter @al_anood has been expressing her pride at the progress that her country has made – whilst also saying that she thinks the current system is “indefensible.”

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:01 pm

There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what’s about to be announced on Twitter today – and it’s clear that both expats and Qatari nationals are eagerly awaiting news.

Some,however, have cautioned against high expectations:

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:04 pm

There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what’s about to be announced on Twitter today – and it’s clear that both expats and Qatari nationals are eagerly awaiting news.

Some, however, have cautioned against high expectations:

And Qatari Tweeter @al_anood says she’s proud of what her country has achieved – but she also says that in her opinion, Kafala is “indefensible.”

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:07 pm

The press conference will start with short addresses from key officials, including Brig. Muhammad Ahmed Al Atiq, the assistant director general of Border, Passports and Expatriate Affairs at the Ministry of Interior; Col. Abdullah Saqr Al Mohannadi, director of MOI’s Human Rights Department; Salih Saeed Al-Sahwi, manager of labor relations at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; and Ali Ahmad Al-Khulaifi, MOLSA’s director of Planning and Quality department.

After that, the announcement “regarding wide-ranging labour reforms” is scheduled to run for 15 minutes.

There will then be a Q&A session.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:11 pm

Brig. Muhammad Ahmed Al Atiq has opened the press conference:

The council of ministers has accepted a proposal to abolish the No Objection Certificate “in principle.” But we are going to the Shura Council for feedback before the government can approve this proposal.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:15 pm

Salih Saeed Al-Sahwi, MOLSA:

“We want to provide more protection to expat community and workers in this country, to provide more protection and safeguard their rights.”

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:17 pm

Reforms that will soon be enshrined in the law include:
-No more need to wait two years before switching jobs;
-Only a permanent exit visa required from sponsor.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:19 pm

Regarding the exit visa – an employee will have to apply to his/her employer for a permanent exit visa. If there are any disputes after the law is passed, a committee will arbitrate dispute. The grace period – 72 hours.

(-Peter Kovessy reporting)

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:20 pm

Moving on to Q&A, officials did not respond directly about when these changes will be implemented, saying they have to pass through the system.

(-Peter Kovessy reporting)

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:24 pm

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:25 pm

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:38 pm

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:41 pm

In response to questions about the “permanent exit visa” – this means that you would only need permission to leave the country when leaving for good.

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:44 pm

In response to a question about trade unions, Qatar said it is studying this, but officials made no commitment to changing current rules.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:45 pm

Key points summarized by an official before closing:
1) The law is going to be changed in terms of the entry, residence and exit of expats.
2) Kafala system will be abolished.
3) It will be replaced with a contractual relationship between employer and employee.
4) The exit visa/permit will be abolished. In the past, exit permits used to be restricted to the worker/ employee. Now it will be in the hand of the state.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:47 pm

Here’s some of the press literature:
The current exit permit system will go through the government’s automated system – employer has 72 hours to contest.

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:48 pm

Not mentioned during the press conference, but in the literature:

The state of Qatar has now adopted a unified accommodation standard to guarantee the quality of housing for all workers in Qatar (standards not specified).

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20143:53 pm

We’re trying to get more clarification on the changes right now. Meanwhile. reaction to the announcements has been pouring in:

https://twitter.com/ushiesj/status/466557439668920320

Victoria Scott May 14, 20143:59 pm

More reaction to the news, from Twitter:

Victoria Scott May 14, 20144:07 pm

The Ministry of Interior just issued this clarification of the status of the “no-objection certificate” on its Facebook page:

“The NOC which currently regulates transfer of employees will be replaced with an employment contract system. If the employment contract is for a fixed term, the employee may transfer to another employer at the end of that term. If the contact is for a an indefinite term, the employee may transfer after five years from date of the contract.”

Shabina S. Khatri May 14, 20144:12 pm

Regarding the exit visa – because the process will be automated, the onus would be on the government or the employer to prevent a person from leaving the country, therefore making it more difficult to stop someone from exiting. Additionally, emergency situations will be treated differently on a case-by-case basis, and not require 72 hour notice.

-Peter Kovessy

Victoria Scott May 14, 20144:46 pm

Another change in the new draft law: Employer would be fined QR50,000 instead of QR10,000 for confiscating passports of employees.

Victoria Scott May 14, 20144:49 pm

We’re now closing our live blog – we’ll be posting a full story shortly.

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