Updated on Sept. 29 with comment from North Korean workers
A local construction firm has terminated contracts with its remaining 108 North Korean employees after they were caught working on another company’s building site at night, according to a media report.
Voice of America (VOA) cited an unnamed Doha-based diplomatic source as saying Qatar’s Construction Development Co. (CDC) suspected the workers’ North Korean supervisors were forcing the migrants to work at the second project after their regular day shift and may have been confiscating their wages.
The move means CDC has now fired its entire North Korean workforce after the same company reportedly sacked some 90 North Korean employees in May over “continuous serious violations” of labor rules that resulted in the death of one worker.
Minutes of a meeting earlier this year between officials from CDC and the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, a copy of which was obtained by VOA, said the company had found that Korean supervisors who were responsible for the well-being of their workers “have been continuously forcing them to work more than 12 hours a day.”
Additionally, the supervisors were accused of providing the workers with substandard food and regularly ignored health and safety procedures.
Under Qatar’s labor law, employees are typically not allowed to work more than 48 hours a week, eight hours a day or a maximum of 10 hours a day with paid overtime. Other provisions mandate that workers receive at least one rest day of 24 hours each week.
At the time, CDC said in the memo that it would continue to employ its remaining 100-odd North Korean workers provided they followed eight rules – one of which was not to work on any non-CDC job sites.
A number of North Koreans in Qatar have disputed the allegations. An Son Sok, who said he was a stone mason and supervisor with CDC, told Doha News that none of the events in the memo took place and that the workers were not fired but went back to North Korea for a month’s leave.
He said 50 workers were later transferred to other companies in Qatar, and 47 remained working for CDC. The construction firm did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
North Koreans in Qatar
It’s not known what construction project CDC’s North Korean employees were working on. CDC has previously been involved in several high-profile local projects including the Emiri Terminal at Hamad International Airport, the St. Regis Hotel Doha, Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel and Commercial Bank Plaza in West Bay, according to its website.
A 2014 Guardian report estimated that there were approximately 3,000 North Koreans migrants working in Qatar and as many as 62,000 elsewhere in the Middle East, Russia, China and Mongolia.
Citing a former North Korean army officer, the report said that the Pyongyang government typically takes 70 percent of the wages that workers earn abroad. After food and accommodation fees are deducted, North Korean migrant workers are often only left with 10 percent of their salary.
Why fire the workers when they are being forced to work extra by the supervisors? Why not fire the supervisors or the North Korean contracting company who employs them (and allow them to migrate and work for a different company)? Qatar should know better than to employ the North Koreans under these slave conditions. “After food and accommodation fees are deducted, North Korean migrant workers are often only left with 10 percent of their salary.” And Qatar seems pretty okay with that arrangement. As long as it’s cheap labor for them, who cares, huh?
There is so much wrong and unfair in this story that words fail me. Suffice to say that slavery is alive and well, lurking on a street corner near you.
exactly and the poor guys don’t even complain about their situation and their government back home never will as long as the guys bring in the money. What a disgrace to both of this goverments
The poor guys will now be executed by Kim Jong Un
It horrifies me to think that this may actually happen.
Why Fire them , they were forced to by there supervisors as per you article D.N !!!
How come you did not elaborate on that , or at least give a thought from you perspective
Seems lately D.N is imposing a copy / paste strategy from the same source to all Doha Newspapers
Their supervisors are north korean, they’re not company supervisors, they supervise the north korean worker force.
North Korea has some pretty shady rules with migrant workers, the state takes their salary and so on. So the workforce is more trouble than it’s worth.
Thank you for the clarification
The MOM seems simple:
Bad implementation of safety procedures.
The (North Korean) supervisors are the ones responsible.
Workers were given NOCs.
It seems that these workers were provided by the DPRK embassy in Kuwait and were not hired by CDC directly. It’s a group of North Koreans.
In Qatar working for a Qatar owned company operating under Qatars labour laws. Simple.
Qatar’s labor laws allow that …
My point is that Qatar cannot keep on blaming other countries for what goes on inside its own borders, countries have to take responsibility.
And have the supervisors been arrested and company assets seized until these labourers get paid their full dues?
The new worker payment system (soon to be phased in) will make it difficult for any company to pay moonlighting workers without anomalies showing up in audited accounts. There are also farther reaching implications for freelancers and ‘sponsored-but-not-really-employees’. Watch this space…
I get your point however if one is making making 1500 QAR/mo or less in which the Pyongyang government takes most and leaves him with 150 to 450 QAR/mo., how does depositing into accounts controlled by the North Korean government help the worker?
Also the article is unclear. Were all 100 fired for unauthorized second shift work OR were they all supervisors that forced others to work second shift? It sounds like all North Koreans (the supervisors and victim workers) were all treated the same and suspended!
Is anyone really surprised by this story?
ANYONE entering a business contract with a North Korean company is implicitly engaging and condoning slave labour.
so if the salary of the workers are taken by the govt in NK. it simply means its just like the country they are working as expats is supporting the communist movement of the NK govt. QATAR Supports North Korea?
I’m told that the Cuban government takes the salary of Cuban doctors at the Cuban hospital. Can anyone confirm that?
It is unrelated. Donno if they pay feom their salaries, but in Cuba you have free education, free health care, social help, etc etc etc.
They do not put three generations in jail or kill people as if they where of no value like in NK.
They pay tax and get something in return, same as most of countries in the world. This is social policies
Citing a former North Korean army officer, the report said that the Pyongyang government typically takes 70 percent of the wages that workers earn abroad. ” where do the money of these migrants workers go? NUKES experiment. any Thoughts?
Actually it’s more like 90% are taken after you add up all the “fees”. The worker if lucky will see 10% (that is like 100 QAR) and in most cases they get paid literally nothing. There are probably few thousands of them in Qatar and several tens of thousands around the world enslaved labor for Kim Jong-un.
A few points in this.
NK needs hard currency. It uses its people sometime convicts to work overseas to get this.
NOC is useless to these people, they cannot work independently of NK. If they tried their families back home would be threatened or sent to labour camps.
Qatar companies like them because they don’t complain. (If they did, families back home in NK suffer, see point 2)
NK sure knows where to operate
For them it has to be the Middle East and Africa. No one asks too many questions and they appreciate the cheap compliant labour.
and the project owner and its representatives, of course, ‘me-know-nothing’.
So much suffering in the world. Its sad.
Wow this is a new low, how sad and incredibly unfair. The Qatari government needs to ban issuing work visas for North Koreans and openly oppose this. Ten percent of their salary is probably a 100 or 200 riyals at the most.
Shame on Qatar for allowing this to happen.
I am not a Qatari, but I am a bit ashamed by this news.
This was a very easy to avoid situation. North Korea’s human rights record is well-documented. Maybe if Qatar’s rich (expatriate and Qatari) weren’t so obsessed with profit, they might have a moment to consider the ethical ramifications of their decisions. How could anyone think it’d be a moral idea to hire North Korean laborers?
Now did we not know this all along. They are controlled by remote directly by their masters in North Korea. Just hope that they will not be branded as traitors and shot when they get back home to their Mr. Kim
So North Korean workers are treated basically the same in Qatar as they would be back home. CDC, in serving as the DPRK’s local agents for its state-sponsored slavery program, are unable to manage their workforce and shocked that they are being abused. Who could have predicted any of this?