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System Of Reporting Absconding Workers To Be Abolished Soon

To safeguard the workers’ rights in Qatar, a ministerial decision is expected to be issued soon to abolish the existing system of reporting absconding workers (commonly known Balag Al Horob).

“We are working with the Ministry of Interior to cancel the system for reporting runaway workers,” said Assistant Undersecretary for Labour Affairs at the Ministry of Administrative Development and Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA), H E Mohamed Hassan Al Obaidli.

Al Obaidli was addressing a webinar titled ‘Labour Reforms in Qatar: A Virtual Panel Discussion of Effective Implementation’ organised by the Ministry and the Embassy of Canada yesterday. Head of International Labour Organization (ILO) Office Qatar, Houtan Homayounpour moderated the webinar.  

Al Obaidli said that the employer will be no more entitled to report for absconding workers. He only has to inform that his worker quit the job to avert future liability.

The Ministry will investigate the status of the absconding worker and settle the situation according to the applicable law. He can file a complaint and apply for changing a job. The runaway worker will be entitled to avail of all of his rights. The report for absconding workers will not affect their status at all,” said Obaidli.  He said that Qatar took historical steps in the field of labour reforms  and the latest is cancelling the requirement of no objection certificate (NOC) for changing the work.

“The new reform allowed workers to change their work organisations freely which is first of its kind in the Middle Eastern countries. We have cancelled the sponsorship system completely,” said Obaidli.

He said that a non-discriminatory minimum wage has been also introduced in Qatar and Ministry is working side-by-side with its partners and international organizations notably International Labour Organization (ILO) for fair recruitment, developing mechanisms for inspection and curb human trafficking. 

“The reforms are being taken under Qatar National Vision (2030) which aims at converting Qatar into an advanced country enabling to achieve sustainable development goals and provide a decent life to Qatari citizens and those expatriates living in the country,” said Obaidli.

He said that the Ministry is committed to implement these reforms to safeguard workers’ rights and to provide best suitable work environment recognized internationally. 

“The reforms aim at making suitable work environment to attract expatriate workers in Qatar, foreign investments and companies,” said Obaidli. He said that the last two reforms about removing NOC and sponsorship completely will take the job market to a new stage. “Now the market has become more competitive. The companies operating in Qatar can also benefit from the easy transfer of the workforce,” said Obaidli.

He said that the job change will take place under certain rules like notifying and serving notice period as per the contract period – one month notice period for less than two years and two months for over two years.

“To safeguard workers’ rights, we have started classifying companies according to their adherence to labor law. The companies which are complying with the laws, wage protection system, and cooperating with the Ministry are being provided faster services with easy procedures by the Ministry,” said Obaidli.

He said that the Ministry took strict actions against those companies failed in paying wages to workers on time putting them on the blacklist and suspending services of the Ministry for them and referring to the security agencies in serious cases.

“The Ministry in cooperation with international organisations started taking action to curb human trafficking. The first verdict will be issued soon to convict people in the case of human trafficking pertaining to immoral activities. In addition to other cases for trading visas and exploiting workers which are also under the procedure,” said Obaidli.

Ambassador of Canada to Qatar, H E Stefanie McCollum said that labour reforms in Qatar are important for Canada because there is a range of Canadian companies and institutions which are operating here in areas such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy, legal services and communications.

“Reforms are also important because Canadians are recruited in Qatar under labor law. About 9,000 Canadians work and live here with their families,” said McCollum.

Chargé d’Affaires of US Embassy in Doha H E Ambassador Greta C. Holtz said that the recent reforms need some time to see the full effect. “We intend to keep open the line of communications with embassies here in Doha, Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, and National Human Rights Committee,” said Holtz.

Legal Advisor at Qatar Chamber Abul Rahman Solaiman said Qatar Chamber will play its role prominently in defending rights of private sectors and interests of private companies with its all committees concerned. 

Associate Editor and Director of Projects Migrant-Rights Organization, Vani Saraswathi said that the significant reforms were made during past few months in Qatar like removing exit permit and NOC allowing workers’ mobility in labor market.

“These two are really promising steps. One of the strong points about NOC abolishing is that all can be done online – notice period to the employer and apply for a new job which means that face-to-face interaction is removed,” said Saraswathi.

Managing Director of Nelson Park and Board Member of the Canadian Business Council Qatar, Jeffrey Asselstine, said that labor reforms which were made during the past few years are very positive. “I think that the online system for changing jobs will become more flexible and easier. That changes will bring great benefit for employees and employers as well as the system is being more flexible and transparent,” said Asselstine.

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