Progress for workers in Qatar
2017-11-01 14:20:00 -

Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

I always get excited to read good news in relation to rights in general but more so workers’ rights, especially for workers that are in precarious situations. And I always remind myself that there are still good employers out there who don’t deserve to be overshadowed by the exploitative ones.


Do you remember that documentary in 2015 that showed a man who spent his retirement helping people to get into England from Calais without any documents? He felt the world was doing wrong by creating endless barriers for people whose only drive was to find work and make a better life for themselves. Who on earth thinks that it’s wrong to escape poverty and conflict to find a better life?


Many would argue that if one is in such a situation, there are ways to do things ‘properly’. That may be so, but those systems also come with gaps often pointed out by NGOs. And it always makes one question who the system is for and against. But that is a discussion for another day.


Back to the good and less depressing news, and it’s being reported that Qatar has set a maximum working day of 10 hours for domestic workers, as well as a minimum of one day off a week and three weeks of paid annual leave. The same reports also say Qatar’s labour department orders that such workers are to be paid monthly, which makes me wonder how regularly they have been getting paid till now.


It is great news to hear of such progress, which is hopefully not just on paper, especially since there has been a lot of criticism of the Qatari government by other countries regarding migrant deaths during the ongoing building of stadiums for Fifa World Cup in 2022. Those are mainly due to the extreme heat in which people have been doing menial construction work. Meanwhile, it’s claimed that the country is spending some $500m a week on World Cup-related infrastructure.


In my mind, I think they can easily afford to provide a safe working environment for labourers who are doing such an important job. I also think that since 95 percent of Qatar’s workforce is made up of migrant workers, it shouldn’t be hard to put measures in place as this is not something new, like in countries such as Ireland where it is common to hear such-and-such measures are not in place because ‘migration is new in the country’.


I do hope that these new measures for domestic workers in Qatar are fully implemented and that employers adhere to them. I also hope that a day will come when treating workers and people in general becomes a norm to us all.


Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland



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