Qatar to step up labour inspections during World Cup: Union

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Qatar will intensify labour inspections during the soccer World Cup including extra health and safety checks to protect workers in the Gulf Arab state from exploitation, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said on Wednesday.

Human rights groups and unions have warned that hospitality, transport and security workers are at particular risk during the month-long tournament, which is being held for the first time in a Middle Eastern country.

“During the World Cup, the Department of Labour will implement a special labor inspection campaign, which will include increased health and safety checks,” the ITUC said in a statement.

“A working time policy to protect workers from unscrupulous employers will also be issued,” it said after a meeting in Doha on Tuesday with officials from the Department of Labour, union officials and the International Labor Organisation.

Qatar’s Labour Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Doha has come under scrutiny and criticism from human rights groups for its treatment of migrant workers ahead of next month’s World Cup.

It has introduced reforms that include protection against lost wages, a monthly minimum wage of 1 000 riyals (US$275) and the ability for workers to change employers.

Qatar Labour Law limits workers to a maximum of 60 hours per week, including overtime, which must be paid at a bonus of 25% over regular pay. Employees are entitled to one day off per week.

Still, pressure on companies to deliver during the tournament, when 1.2 million people are set to visit Qatar, may increase opportunities for exploitation, said Ruwan Subasinghe, legal director of the International Transport Workers Federation.

“That there’s going to be a targeted campaign sends a message to employers that just because there are thousands of people here, they can’t get away with certain things,” Subasinghe said, citing the pressure to work overtime as an example.

Qatar, where migrant workers and other foreigners make up the majority of its 2.8 million residents, is hiring thousands of temporary workers to bolster its workforce during the event.

Mustafa Qadri, who heads labour law firm Equidem, warned that inspections may not protect workers from unscrupulous recruiters, who often illegally charge large upfront payments that workers pay back for years.

He also expressed concern about possible instances of unpaid wages, abusive conditions and discrimination.

“With tens of thousands of workers coming into the country, Qatar just doesn’t have the capacity to oversee it all. So the risk is really high,” Qadri said.