The system, applying in Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE and, up to now, Qatar, requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
“For the ITF, this means a potential sea change for transport workers, in aviation, in ports, and in public transport. We will now work within this agreement to build protection for them as workers, with good, sustainable jobs, recognising international standards and best practice,” ITF stated.
The new guidance and commitments made by the Government dismantle the system of kafala, which has trapped millions of migrant workers in Qatar. The six steps include:
- Employment contracts will be lodged with a government authority to prevent contract substitution, ending the practice of workers arriving in the country only to have their contract torn up and replaced with a different job, often on a lower wage.
- Employers will no longer be able to stop their employees from leaving the country.
- A minimum wage will be prescribed as a base rate covering all workers, ending the race-based system of wages.
- Identification papers will be issued directly by the State of Qatar, and workers will no longer rely on their employer to provide their ID card without which workers can be denied medical treatment.
- Workers’ committees will be established in each workplace, with workers electing their own representatives.
- A special disputes resolution committee with a timeframe for dealing with grievances will be a centerpiece for ensuring rapid remedy of complaints.
Further, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) also welcomed the step by Qatar and plans further meetings with the country's Labour Minister on implementing labour rights for two million migrant workers in the Gulf State.
“The new guidance from Qatar signals the start of real reforms in Qatar which will bring to an end the use of modern slavery and puts the country on the pathway to meeting its international legal obligations on workers’ rights. Following discussions in Doha there is a clear government commitment to normalise industrial protections for migrant workers,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.