DOHA: A Nepalese construction worker in Qatar was “sacked” the day after speaking to a UN delegation visiting the 2022 World Cup host country to examine labor conditions, sources said. The incident is considered serious enough that the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) said it would be on the agenda when its governing body meets in two months to discuss an investigation into allegations of forced labor by Qatar.
“The ILO has been following closely this case and continues to do so with a view to ensuring that the rights of this Nepalese worker are fully respected and protected,” Corinne Vargha, director of the ILO’s international labor standards department, said in a statement. The case was raised in a previous meeting of the ILO governing body in March 2017, Vargha said, in the context of a complaint against Doha for non-compliance with two ratified ILO international conventions-namely the Forced Labor Convention and the Labor Inspection Convention.
“The complaint will be further discussed by the Governing Body at its November 2017 session,” she added. That meeting could see the ILO launch a formal investigation into Qatar over its treatment of migrant workers. The construction worker’s plight has also been confirmed by two separate unions. The incident occurred in March 2016, but could only now be reported because of sensitivities surrounding the case. It happened when a six-strong team from the ILO visited a labor camp in Qatar.
As well as losing his job after telling the UN body about unpaid wages and employers illegally holding his passport, the laborer was also handed a one-way ticket home to Nepal by bosses, unions said. Officials at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) say the timing of the dismissal “indicates it was a retaliatory act by his employer”. “This is a violation under international labor standards and contradicts the commitments Qatar has repeatedly made before the ILO,” said ITUC head Sharan Burrow.
The union said the 29-year-old worker never got on the plane, but was subsequently jailed for two weeks due to losing his work sponsor. Under the “kafala” system, the prevailing law at the time of the incident, all foreign workers in Qatar required a local sponsor in order to work and maintain residency. That sponsor, whether an individual or company, must grant permission for the laborer to switch jobs or leave the country.
The Nepalese national was not working on a World Cup project, but the 2022 event has put a spotlight on labor conditions in Qatar. The man’s case was cleared earlier this year and he opted to stay in Qatar, working for a new employer and earning around 1,600 Qatari Riyals per month-an average salary for a laborer in Qatar. Despite requests there was no immediate comment from the Qatari government. In recent years Doha claims to have made great strides in labor relations, including reforms to ensure wages are paid promptly, improved accommodations and the abolition of kafala for a new, contract-based system.–AFP