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Impactt

World Cup project workers

An audit of contractors on 2022 World Cup projects in Qatar found many to be working their staff too hard, according to a new report.

For example, half of the 10 contractors interviewed failed to give their employees one day off a week.

And many construction workers faced 72-hour weeks, instead of the 48 hours stipulated in a charter established by tournament organizers.

Construction work at Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Reconstruction of Khalifa Stadium, for illustrative purposes only

These findings were published last week in an independent report commissioned by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL).

The Annual External Compliance Report was authored by London-based ethical trade consultancy Impactt.

It was hired by the SCDL in 2016 amid growing international concern about human rights violations in Qatar, and will be monitoring World Cup project sites in the coming years.

Charter compliance

Currently, about 10,000 people are working on World Cup projects in Qatar. That number is expected to surge to a peak of 36,000 workers by next year.

Marco Zanferrari/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To win tenders for tournament projects, contractors and subcontractors had to agree to abide by the SCDL’s workers’ charter.

The document covers living conditions, ethical recruitment, workers’ nutrition and on-site health and safety, among other things.

During its first audits, Impactt spoke to 10 contractors and 253 workers over the past year to see whether companies were adhering to the charter.

Findings

While companies mostly complied with rules about housing and safety, many fell down when it came to issues such as proper rest and setting up grievance mechanisms.

For example, some employees worked up to 18 hours a day (instead of eight to 10).

However, Impactt said that “solid progress” was made after the non-compliance issues were pointed out.

Construction workers at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium renovations for illustrative purposes only.

It added that a follow-up audit conducted in January of this year found that 78 percent of issues were resolved, especially those involving medical care, transportation and end-of-service procedures.

That said, eight out 10 contractors still failed to provide an annual flight home to their employees.

Because this requirement is not legally required in Qatar, it “highlights the barriers which the SC faces in trying to advance practices beyond local law and common business practice,” the report said.

Notably, World Cup project workers account for just a fraction of Qatar’s overall blue-collar workforce. Most employers in the country are not as stringently monitored or bound by the same higher standards.

Recommendations

Many of Impactt’s recommendations for the contractors involved making changes to company culture.

Construction workers eat at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, it urged that more be done to:

  • Amplify workers’ voices, because capturing their feedback will help management and 2022 organizers best understand which issues matter to their staff;
  • Build management skills by training foremen, accommodation managers and welfare officers to develop respectful people skills; and
  • Shore up grievance mechanisms to ensure workers are treated fairly and help drive positive change.

Impactt also urged the SCDL to participating in “multi-stakeholder action” to resolve more systematic problems.

These include the exorbitant recruitment fees workers pay to get to Qatar and the substitute contracts that may await them upon arrival.

For its part, the SCDL said in a statement:

“While the findings clearly state there are challenges, they also demonstrate our continued commitment to this process.

We will do everything necessary to ensure the issues identified are dealt with promptly.”

What’s to come

In the coming year, 100 percent of contractors across nine active projects will be audited for compliance to the charter.

At least five percent of the workers employed by each contractor will also be interviewed.

Impactt

Impactt initial audit scope

Additionally, the SCDL has agreed to establish a worker hotline for grievances, continue to work with international unions on joint health and safety inspections of construction and housing sites; and complete a worker survey.

Impactt interviewed a small sample of workers about their priorities and found that respect, a better future for their families and income security were among the things that mattered most to them.

However, a much larger sample is needed for these results to be considered representative, it said.

Thoughts?

Mustafa Khayat/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Yesterday’s deadly chemical gas attack on Syrian citizens was a “heinous” crime against innocent people, Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry has said.

According to Al Jazeera, at least 58 people, including 11 children, were killed in a rebel-held town in the Idlib province during the assault.

Observers on the ground said many people died through asphyxiation. Some victims were seen writhing on the ground and foaming at the mouth.

The United Nations is planning to investigate the attack as a possible war crime. This is because it may have involved the use of a gas akin to sarin.

International criticism of the attack has been swift and strong. The US for example denounced Assad for operating with “brutal, unabashed barbarism” and France called yesterday a “massacre.”

Qatar’s foreign minister also minced no words with his thoughts, saying in a tweet in Arabic:

“History has not witnessed such brutal and inhuman crimes as those committed by Assad regime against innocent people in Syria. Shame on humanity’s silence.”

Demanding justice

In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported an international investigation. It also urged the community to take “immediate measures” to protect the Syrian people.

And it called for embattled Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government to be held accountable for the attack.

“Letting the perpetrators go unpunished could have severe implications represented in further increase of violations and crimes in Syria,” the ministry concluded.

An emergency UN Security Council meeting about the attack and the Syrian conflict, which has dragged on for six years, is scheduled for today.

Thoughts?

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Workers must be granted at least one paid day off each week, Qatar’s labor ministry has reminded employers.

In a tweet last week, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs cited Article 75 of the law, which states:

According to legal portal Al Meezan, the clause also states that people should be compensated for working on Friday in one of two ways:

  • By either getting time off another day of the week; or
  • Getting paid time and a half (or 150 percent of one’s regular wage for working on a Friday.

Additionally, with the exception of shift workers, it’s prohibited to require an employee to work for two consecutive Fridays, the law states.

Complaint kiosk.

ADLSA

Complaint kiosk

The ministry did not say what to do if an employer is flouting the law, but it does have kiosks set up in its branches for people to file complaints.

It has also recently pledged to establish a complaint hotline soon for abused expats.

Domestic workers

The no work on Fridays rule applies to all those who fall under the labor law.

For now, this excludes domestic workers, such as gardeners, cooks, drivers and nannies.

Mopaw Foundation/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, last month the Cabinet approved a draft law that would provide legal protection to these employees by bringing them under the labor law.

According to a document submitted to the International Labor Organization last month, the law would establish a 10-hour workday with periods for rest and food.

It would also mandate one day off a week. However, how officials will be able to enforce what goes on behind closed doors remains to be seen.

Thoughts?