Qatar firms’ failure to pay leaves migrant workers destitute – report that details how ‘Despite government measures, thousands left struggling during Covid outbreak as companies withhold salaries and benefits, research shows’
Companies in Qatar have failed to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars” in salaries and other benefits to low-wage workers since the coronavirus outbreak, according to new research by the human rights group Equidem.
In its report, Equidem describes how thousands of workers have been dismissed without notice, put on reduced wages or unpaid leave, denied outstanding salary and end of service payments, or forced to pay for their own flights home.
The report’s findings appear to amount to “wage theft” on an unprecedented scale, leaving “worker after worker” destitute, short of food and unable to send money home during the pandemic, in one of the richest countries in the world.Advertisement
“I came here to work for my family, not to be a beggar living on my own,” said a cleaner from Bangladesh, who said he had not received his salary for four months.
In separate research, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre found that unpaid or delayed wages were cited by workers in 87% of cases of alleged labour abuse affecting almost 12,000 workers since 2016.
Equidem praises some measures put in place by the Qatar government during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, the government made it mandatory for companies to continue to pay workers in quarantine or government-imposed isolation, and set up a £625m loan scheme to help companies do so, but the report warns of “widespread failure to comply” with this and other regulations.
The government later permitted companies that had stopped operating due to Covid restrictions to put workers on unpaid leave or terminate their contracts as long as they complied with requirements of the labour law, including giving a notice period and paying outstanding benefits.
The report highlights a number of companies that exploited or ignored this directive. Up to 2,000 workers employed by one construction company were laid off on the spot, workers claim. Most did not receive their outstanding salary or end of service settlement, a payment equivalent to three weeks’ salary for each full year of work.
“Many migrant workers are in an extremely vulnerable position with no real ability to assert their rights or seek remedy for violations,” says the report.
Mustafa Qadri, the director of Equidem, said the lack of a lawful right to organise or join a trade union has been particularly damaging. “It has prevented workers from having a seat at the table with government and employers to negotiate an equitable share of funds,” he said.
The report describes similar findings in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as policies in response to the pandemic which amount to racial discrimination. In both countries, the authorities required private companies to continue to provide wages and benefits to nationals, but allowed them to reduce wages or stop paying non-nationals.
In a statement, the Qatar government said its response to the pandemic, “has been driven by the highest international standards of public health policy and the protection of human rights”.
The government has provided free testing and treatment and said, “employers failing to pay their staff on time or withholding end of service payments have faced disciplinary action, including heavy fines and bans that prevent them from operating”.
Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) of Qatar organizes International Hydrogen Energy workshop as reported by Gulf Times of Qatar as an attempt to not only inform on the country’s hydrogen energy opportunities but also to promote discussions regarding the nation’s strategy of its energy transition.
The picture above is of the Qatar Foundation Headquarters in Doha.
October 10, 2020
Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) organized an international workshop entitled The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar.
The two-day event sought to inform stakeholders on the countrys hydrogen energy opportunities, promote discussions regarding a national strategy, and facilitate international collaboration in the areas of policy, business and research, and saw the participation of over 50 delegates from eight countries including Qatar, Japan, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Switzerland.
Organized in line with QEERIs mandate to support Qatar in tackling its grand challenges related to energy, water and the environment, the workshop brought together leading international experts and national stakeholders from the public, private, academic and industry sectors. The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar also reflected the unprecedented attention currently being paid to hydrogen energy as well as global efforts to harness its full potential.
The Principal Economist at QEERI and chair of the workshop Dr. Marcello Contestabile, explained: “There is a growing international consensus that hydrogen has a key role to play in a deeply decarbonized energy system. Conversely, there is also a need for large investments and international cooperation to ensure that hydrogen technology is scaled up and rolled out, and for markets to be created for the end product.
“Qatar is already playing a global role in the energy transition as a major supplier of the cleanest fossil fuel and is taking assertive steps to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the LNG it delivers through methane management and CCS. Hydrogen will allow the country to take this further and continue to profit from its endowment of natural gas in a low carbon world. To make the most of it, however, a joint approach at the national and international level is required.” he said.
He added: “The timeliness of the event is demonstrated by the very strong and enthusiastic response we received from international experts and national stakeholders alike. We provided a forum for the necessary conversations to begin and look forward to continuing to play our part supporting the development of a hydrogen ecosystem in Qatar.”
The Energy Technology Analyst in Hydrogen and Alternative Fuels at the International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr. Jose M Bermudez, said: “Hydrogen could play a key role in the energy transition, especially in hard to abate sectors where direct electrification will be challenging and sustainable biomass availability will not be able to meet energy demands. However, this will require to significantly expand hydrogen use and, at the same time, switch hydrogen production to low-carbon routes. This is not an easy endeavour and will require a lot of collaboration and coordination at all levels and, especially, at international level.”
He added: “The first step that countries should take is to develop their national hydrogen strategies that take into due consideration the evolution of the international landscape. Platforms like this workshop, bringing together local and international stakeholders, are ideal to stimulate the conversations and knowledge sharing that is required to develop strategies that will shape the role of hydrogen in a future clean energy system”
Highlighting the importance of such conversations among stakeholders, Dr. Marc Vermeersch said: “It is absolutely imperative that we combine forces and work collectively to achieve the targets set forth by the Qatar National Vision 2030. The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar workshop provided a platform not just for knowledge sharing and learning global best practices, but also to discuss how each of us can contribute towards building a robust and efficient strategy for Qatar.”
QEERI is committed to assisting Qatar to diversify its energy mix, and focuses on sustainability research, development and innovation across its various centers including the Energy Center, Water Center, Environment and Sustainability Center, Corrosion Center and its Earth Sciences Program.
Randy Rivera, Executive Director of FinTEx, a member-led community focused on promoting innovation and collaboration within Fintech in Qatar and the MENA region, has said that his organization continues to work with international financial services industry participants.
During a June 23, 2020 virtual panel discussion (hosted by the US-Qatar Business Council) on “Qatar’s Growing Fintech Sector & Business Opportunities,” Rivera stated:
“We [aim to] … match talent with opportunity and what is going on in Qatar fits as an attractive platform not just for the Fintechs involved but for the Qatari market and the Middle East overall.”
“The design of these programs reflects thoughtfulness, broad participation and commitment of the right mix of leaders who can affect change and attract the talent to make that change uniquely impactful, not just to the market, but to the regional fintech community as well.”
Qatar is now a major financial hub in the Middle East. The country’s human development index (HDI) value is around 0.85, which puts it in the “very high” human development (and quality of life) category.
Qatar is ranked at 41 out of 189 countries and territories. Its HDI value has increased from around 0.75 to 0.85 in the past two decades – which indicates that the living standards of its residents may have improved significantly due to its booming economy.
As mentioned in a release shared with CI, Qatar aims to further support and develop a strong business community and a competitive environment that will help local SMEs while also attracting foreign SMEs.
The release revealed:
“Qatar has advanced 18 spots in the national level of entrepreneurial activity, securing the 15th rank globally and the 2nd in the MENA region for the Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) index, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report 2019/2020.”
Amy Nauiokas, founder and CEO at Anthemis, a VC investment platform with over 100 portfolio firms, believes Qatar provides “a promising environment and set of opportunities for Fintech growth.”
Nauiokas, whose company supports an ecosystem of over 10,000 investors, incumbents, and high-potential Fintech firms, globally, stated:
“We look forward to solidifying some key relationships in Qatar as Anthemis further builds our MENA strategy.”
Mohammed Barakat, MD of US Qatar Business Council, who also attended the webinar, said:
“Considering Qatar’s large payment processing and remittance market and its strategy to become a regional gateway for a huge market, I foresee rapid growth in Qatar’s FinTech sector.”
The US-Qatar Business Council aims to support trade and investment between the two nations and to also build strategic business relationships.
As noted in the release, there are over 120 wholly-owned US firms operating in Qatar, and over 700 U.S.-Qatar joint projects currently active in the Middle Eastern nation.
As reported recently, the Qatar Financial Center will launch “Fintech Circle,” a co-workspace for qualifying financial technology firms free of charge for a year.
Hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies resulted in Qatar University bags six prizes at global innovation contest. It is told in The Peninsula of 7 December 2020.
The Qatari pride was expressly reconfirmed in the country’s continuous support to all leaders of development and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
Doha: Four distinguished scientific projects of Qatar University’s (QU) Young Scientists Center (YSC) won six international prizes at the International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition in Malaysia (ITEX).
The event was organised in cooperation with the International Federation of Inventors’ Associations and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. This achievement, which represents the State of Qatar and QU, was achieved in a strong competition that included 250 entries.
ITEX is an international competition held online this year, which targets school students and university students. This competition has several rules and guidelines that determine the type of projects that are qualified and the categories in which they can participate and compete. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity for all participating inventors to gain recognition for their inventions and showcase their innovative projects, and compete globally through the platform that it provides to them. Four groups of students affiliated with the centre’s programmes participated in projects developed at Qatar University laboratories using the latest equipment and research methods.
Sarah Al Obaidly, a student at the College of Engineering, and Maryam Al Kuwari, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University, affiliated with the ‘I am a Researcher’ programme, won the gold medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category, for a project titled “Functionalized polymer membrane for wastewater treatment, whose importance lies in purifying water from impurities.”
High school students Tamim Al Rashed and Youssef Al Mahmoud from Qatar Banking Studies and Business Administration school won the gold medal for a hydrogel sensor for agricultural applications that aims to improve soil properties and fertility.
Abdullah Al Janahi and Abdullah Al Nasr, Qatar Science and Technology school students, won the gold medal for a project entitled Intelligent and Robust Composite Nanofibers for the Autonomy of Electronic Devices.
As for the preparatory stage, Ahmed Majed and Ahmed Salama from Al Kaaban preparatory school for boys won a bronze medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category for a project titled ‘COVID-19 pandemic inspired at home innovation: Through an unconventional remote educational model executed by the Qatar University Young Scientists Center’. This project demonstrates the novel and effective educational methods applied by the centre to face the challenges of distance learning and to ensure students learn in a way that stimulates creativity and innovation.
The students’ outstanding success was pleasing to the sponsoring programme of the centre, “Ras Laffan Industrial City Community Outreach Program”. Their pride was expressed in the outcomes of hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies at Qatar University. The programme affirmed its continuous support to all students to become the leaders of development in the country and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
Qatar has about2.6 million inhabitants as of early 2017, the majority of whom (about 92%) live in Doha, the capital. Foreign workers amount to around 88% of the population, with Indians being the largest community numbering around 1,230,000. It will host the Football World Cup of 2022.
Migrant workers in Qatar who are in quarantine or undergoing treatment will receive full salaries, the government has announced.
Qatar has announced 781 confirmed coronavirus cases – the highest in the Arab Gulf region – and two deaths.
In a news conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) also said it was mandatory for employers and companies to follow the policy.
He added that a hotline service (92727) was launched to receive workers’ grievances.
“The companies are responding fully because they know that the workers were put in quarantine as a precautionary measure to protect all of us,” Muhammed Hassan al-Obaidly, assistant under-secretary for labour affairs at MADLSA, said.
He also said three billion riyals ($824m) were set aside to support companies in paying their employees.
“We are working 24 hours through department concerned for wage protection system to monitor the companies on a daily basis, checking the transactions, sending messages directly to the companies who are found delaying the payments,” said al-Obaidly.
“We will communicate with the workers in their language and will take the statement to address the issue. They do not need to come to the services centre of the ministry.”READ MORE
Those outside Qatar will be able to renew their Qatar identity cards (QID) without any penalties, he added.
Those who are unable to return home after having their jobs terminated will “remain in Qatar with proper lodging and food”.
“Some countries have closed their airports and, in such cases, an appropriate mechanism will be set on how to repatriate these workers to ensure they do not remain stranded.”
Reiterating Qatar’s policy of providing free treatment to all individuals infected with coronavirus, al-Obaidly, said those who do not have valid working visas and are illegal in the country would also be treated free of charge.
Amid growing fears over the spread of the virus, Qatar has banned the entry of foreigners after suspending all incoming flights for the next two weeks.
Last week, Qatar announced the closure of all shops, except for food stores and pharmacies, and bank branches. Eighty percent of government employees were also ordered to work from home.
Originally posted on ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly: Back in 2018, our Algeria & Morocco Editor wrote about one of her favorite discoveries, Safia Ketou’s La Planète Mauve et Autres Nouvelles: By Nadia Ghanem In six years of rummaging through Algerian literature, Safia Ketou’s sci-fi story “The Mauve Planet” remains my favorite find. Born Zohra Rabhi in…
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