Browsing 'workers' News

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

As Qatar celebrates the opening of its first World Cup stadium today, rights group Amnesty International is warning officials to proceed with caution.

The group had uncovered human rights violations by contractors involved in Khalifa International Stadium renovations last year.

At the time, it stated that more than 100 expats had their passports confiscated and salary payments delayed.

Construction workers at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium renovations for illustrative purposes only.

A year later, an independent audit commissioned by World Cup organizers found many contractors are continuing to work their staff too hard.

For its part, tournament organizers said at the time that “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.”

‘Urgent rethink’ needed

But in a statement yesterday, Amnesty urged more drastic action, raising the issue of Qatar’s restrictive labor laws.

James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues program, said:

“Migrant workers at Khalifa International Stadium have already suffered the consequences of Qatar and FIFA’s failure to genuinely address the dangers of Qatar’s sponsorship system.

An urgent rethink is needed to prevent labour abuse becoming the legacy of the 2022 World Cup.”

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.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Notably, this is just a fraction of Qatar’s labor force, and many of these employees have far more favorable working and living conditions than their peers who work for smaller companies.

However, authorities are under pressure to ensure the rights of all workers in the run-up to 2022.

Deaths

One litmus test for proper working and living conditions has been the fatality rate of World Cup employees.

So far, two people have died while working on stadium sites, including a British man who fell to his death at Khalifa Stadium.

However, earlier this month an Indian carpenter died of a heart attack he suffered shortly after leaving the stadium site, Reuters reports.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

He is at least the fourth World Cup employee to have died of cardiac arrest in the past year and a half, the newswire states.

More should be done to find out whether these deaths are related to working conditions, rights groups have argued.

Speaking to Reuters yesterday, Gulf labor researcher Mustafa Qadri said:

“Workers dying suddenly from heart attacks is something we hear about often, the causes are not always clear.

But we’re moving now into the hottest time of the year when the risk of fatality increases. When a worker dies, Qatar needs to get to the bottom of what happened. People’s lives are in danger.”

Thoughts?

QNA

Qatar Armed Forces

Three workers have died and several others were injured in an incident on a construction site for a Qatar Armed Forces project, officials have disclosed.

In a statement on QNA yesterday, the Ministry of Defense expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased and wished a speedy recovery to those who got hurt.

The ministry did not say what happened or when. It also did not elaborate on how many people were injured, or offer any identifying details about those who were killed.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Additionally, no pledge was made to investigate the cause of the incident.

However, officials did stress their “commitment to abide by the highest safety standards in all its facilities.”

Transparency

Though little information was shared about the incident was made public, the disclosure is nonetheless a rare one.

This could be in part because such accidents are uncommon.

According to figures that Qatar shared with the UN earlier this year, only 35 expats were killed while on the job in 2016.

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However, the announcement also comes as authorities are taking steps to become more transparent about Qatar’s labor class.

World Cup organizers for example have announced two construction worker deaths in recent months.

The country has also been introducing labor reforms ahead of the tournament. These include changes to its sponsorship law, a new Wage Protection System (WPS) and a draft law protecting house help.

UN/Flickr

United Nations in Geneva

Meanwhile, Qatar is facing a potential inquiry from a United Nations agency about human rights abuses.

Following complaints from unions, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has given the nation until November to prove that its new reforms are doing enough to protect blue-collar residents.

Thoughts?

MME

Shaded rubbish trolleys

With summer now well underway in Qatar, officials are rolling out some new equipment to help outdoor workers stay a little cooler.

Rubbish trolleys used by cleaners now have shades on them to protect the employees from direct sunlight.

The move was announced yesterday by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME).

The trolleys will be rolled out across Qatar this week, and have drawn praise from many residents who thanked authorities for their thoughtfulness.

 

Other creative initiatives to protect workers during Qatar’s summers have included outfitting them with cooling helmets and other gear.

In 2015, air conditioning was also mandated on worker transport, but compliance has been spotty since then.

Waiting for June

While the new extra shades are likely appreciated, summertime always poses a challenge for outdoor workers, who are vulnerable to heat stroke and other illnesses.

This is especially the case before the midday work ban takes effect in June.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Even though temperatures are already hitting the low 40Cs (>104F) this month, many construction workers, cleaners and gardeners are still toiling outside during the hottest part of the day.

Employers are not yet legally required to do anything about this until June 15.

From then until the end of August, outdoor workers are given a reprieve from 11:30am to 3pm and can work no more than five-hour shifts in the morning.

Speaking to Doha News previously, employees said working under the sun is difficult in May, but “part of the job.”

One man said:

“We just take short breaks or cover our faces and necks with scarves to protect ourselves from the heat. The company can’t do anything else. The weather is hot. What can we do?”

Thoughts?