The case of 16 Sri Lankan workers, allegedly cheated by recruitment agencies back home and subsequently by their employer in Qatar, is a classic example of the fraudulent practices prevalent in the manpower hiring industry.
The plight of the workers, who claimed not to have received basic salaries for over three months, was featured in Gulf Times yesterday.
Documents provided by an aggrieved worker indicate that though he was hired as a light vehicle driver, the employment contract prepared in Qatar lists his occupation as carpenter.
“This is the case of all the other members of our group,” the worker said. The profession of this worker is mentioned as “driver” on his passport as well as in the “employment contract” prepared by the recruitment agency in Sri Lanka.
In an initial “employment contract”, which the workers received during March while they were still in Sri Lanka, the trading and contracting company based in Qatar mentioned the job as light vehicle driver.
“We decided to come to Qatar based on this contract, but once we arrived here and received the ‘employment contract’, we realised that the occupation had been changed to that of carpenter,” the worker recalled.
Though the initial contract mentioned a monthly salary of QR1,000-1,200, the subsequent contract showed only QR1,000.
In the first contract, the general manager of the company has given the undertaking that “I am aware that this contract is part and parcel of job order… and will be submitted to relevant authorities in Qatar and Sri Lanka in case of disputes.”
But the first contract has apparently been superseded by the second one, which is in the stipulated English and Arabic format, and mentions the occupation as carpenter. “When we were hired, we were told that on reaching Doha we would be able to get a licence within a month and get paid on time with benefits,” the worker told Gulf Times. “But now it’s been more than three months and all of us remain unpaid. It’s like we don’t exist any more for the company,” he added.
Gulf Times reported yesterday that the Sri Lankan embassy was “in the process of resolving the matter”.
The workers now live in squalid conditions on their company premises in the Industrial Area.
The situation for the Sri Lankan workers has become complicated by the fact that according to the new rules in the country, all workers on labour visas can no longer dream of getting a driving licence.
As part of an initiative to ease traffic congestion on Qatar’s roads, the Traffic Department had decided not to issue driving licences to certain categories of expatriate workers since the beginning of July.
The licensing section of the Traffic Department in the Ministry of Interior (MoI) had issued a circular to driving schools, informing them of its decision not to issue driving licences to certain type of workers, especially labourers.
According to a recently published Gulf Times report, labourers, however, still constitute one-third of the total number of clients of driving schools. Of 30 applicants, about 10 fall under the labourer category. The ban is on 162 specific categories of workers, mostly those associated with low-income jobs.
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