Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Qatar

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Qatar, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca73c.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 841,000
Capital: Doha
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 111 – 138 – 182

The labour code introduced in 2005 produced limited benefits. Government workers and non-Qatari nationals are not allowed to join unions. Migrant workers, who make up 85%-95% of the workforce, are frequently mistreated, with reports of deaths at work and in the camps where they live.

Trade union rights in law

Limited trade union rights: A new labour code came into force in January 2005. The only union allowed is the General Union of Workers of Qatar, made up of General Committees for workers in different trades or industries. Each of these committees must have a minimum of 100 members. Government employees are not allowed to organise nor are non-Qatari nationals.

The new constitution that came into force in January 2005 keeps ultimate power in the hands of the emir, but provides for a two-thirds elected advisory body. It guarantees freedom of expression and assembly, both important rights for the full and free functioning of trade union organisations.

Collective bargaining: The new law allows trade unions to carry out collective bargaining, but that right is heavily curtailed by the government's control over the rules and procedures for bargaining.

Severe limitations on the right to strike: Although the new code recognises the right to strike, it contains so many obstacles that it is extremely difficult to do so within the law. Civil servants and domestic workers cannot strike. No worker in a public utility, health or security service can strike if it harms the public or causes damage to property. In the private sector, although most workers have the right to strike, they can only do so after the Labour Department of the Ministry of Civil Service has ruled on the dispute, which effectively neutralises the purpose of striking. Foreign workers have tended not to draw attention to problems with their employers for fear of repatriation.

In contrast, under the same conditions, employers are authorised to lock out or sack workers.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Migrant workers: Migrant workers make up 85%-95% of the workforce. Most work in the private and semi-private sectors, where they often fall victim to abuse from their employers. Migrants in Qatar are bound by the sponsor system, a regulation that restricts the workers' movements and puts them at the mercy of their employers. There were reports or deaths of foreign construction workers because of conditions at work and at the labour camps where they live.

Domestic workers are poorly treated by their employers, and complaints included sexual harassment, delayed and nonpayment of salaries, forced labour, overwork and even physical torture.

Following complaints from foreign embassies about the mistreatment of foreign workers the government set up a ministerial committee to monitor and prevent abuse of foreign workers.

Repeated strikes: Despite the legal restrictions, strikes and sit-ins have been held, mostly owing to nonpayment of wages and poor living conditions. For example in September 2007, 47 Indian workers in a construction firm stopped work for these reasons, and they also lodged a complaint with their embassy – a common occurrence.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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