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

Trade union rights are restricted by the single trade union system. The right to strike is severely limited. The situation facing migrant workers remains difficult. A law was passed to prevent the worst forms of abuse against domestic servants.

Trade union rights in law

Limited trade union rights: The country's labour code allows for only one trade union: the General Union of Workers of Qatar, made up of General Committees for workers in different trades or industries. Each committee must have a minimum of 100 members. Government employees are not allowed to organise nor are non-Qatari nationals.

Right to collective bargaining: The law allows trade unions to carry out collective bargaining but heavily curtails this right by maintaining government control over the rules and procedures for bargaining.

Right to strike – severe limitations: Although the labour 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.

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

New law promised for domestic workers: A draft law was published in June to improve the position of housemaids and other domestic workers by making it compulsory for sponsors to provide them with suitable accommodation and healthcare and regulate the paying of wages. However, it had not passed into law by the year's end.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Qatar is politically stable. The Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has full power, since he appoints the cabinet ministers (of whom there are 15) and issues new laws. The 2005 Constitution established 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.

Migrant workers: Migrant workers make up 85%-95% of the workforce. Most work in the private and semi-private sector. 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. Working and living conditions in labour camps remain difficult.

In September over 100 Indian workers in a construction firm protested outside the Indian embassy for salary arrears of between two and four months. Some of those received permission to seek work beyond that of their sponsors or recruitment agencies, while others were given tickets to return home.

In another case in November, the Labour Court ruled that 31 Nepali youths working for the Trading and Contracting Company should be flown home at the company's expense, after they had worked without receiving salaries, proper accommodation, medical assistance or food.

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