The state of Qatar's Cabinet has approved a series of draft laws that would give migrants workers of all categories more rights and protection, including the possibility of switching jobs while the contract is still valid.
This was announced Wednesday (16 October ) by the H.E the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs Yousef bin Mohamed al-Othman al-Fakhro during the celebration of the Centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), under the theme "the Future of Work in Qatar" at Katara - the Culture Village Foundation, reported The Gulf Times.
The event under the patronage H.E. the Minister was attended by senior officials from the ILO, ambassadors and labour attaches of various countries, senior government officials, and representatives of Qatar Chamber, the private sector and expatriate communities.
Qatar has announced sweeping reforms to its labour market, with a view to ending the kafala system and marking a momentous step forward in upholding the rights of migrant workers, according to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
On 16 October 2019, the Council of Ministers of the State of Qatar unanimously endorsed new legislation allowing workers to change employers freely. Workers in Qatar had previously required a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employer in order to do so.
The elimination of the NOC requirement will allow workers to freely change employers following an initial probationary period. Should they wish to change employers during this period, the new employer would need to reimburse recruitment costs to the original employer.
“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labour market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy."Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
In addition, Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs H E Yousuf Mohamed Al Othman Fakhroo has said that the State Cabinet approved a draft law to establish a non-discriminatory minimum wage, the first in the Middle-East.
Meanwhile, the establishment of a non-discriminatory minimum wage that applies to all nationalities and all sectors will guarantee a minimum level of protection for all workers. The minimum-wage level will be set later in the year, based on a joint study already completed by the ILO and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA).
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) report, Ministerial Decree by the Minister of Interior was also signed, removing exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel. Together, these steps mark the end of kafala in the country.
The decision on exit permits means that domestic workers; workers in government and public institutions; workers employed at sea and in agriculture; as well as casual workers are free to leave the country either temporarily or permanently without having to obtain the permission of their employers. This covers all workers not covered by Law No. 13 of 2018, which removed the requirement to obtain exit permits for most workers covered by the Labour Law.
“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labour market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy. I am pleased that the ongoing ILO technical cooperation programme in Qatar is tangibly contributing to the government’s effort to advance social justice and promote decent work in the country,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said: “Qatar is changing. The new tranche of laws will bring an end to kafala and put in place a modern industrial relations system. We recognize that a new evidence-based minimum wage rate will ensure dignity for migrant workers. We urge the government to announce this as quickly as possible. The partnership between the Qatar Government and the ILO, supported by the ITUC, is working to change lives.”
Roberto Suarez-Santos, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers, said: “We congratulate the Government of Qatar on the major steps they have taken to adapt their labour market standards. IOE is proud to have supported the government’s efforts over the past several years. I would like to express our appreciation to those leading this process for making decent work and sustainable economies a centrepiece of development in Qatar.”
The respective draft laws will now be referred to the Advisory (Shura) Council, and subsequently for the approval and signature of the Emir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The legislation is expected to come into force by January 2020.
These reforms are part of the ILO-ADLSA cooperation agreement signed in 2017, which resulted in the opening of an ILO Project Office in Doha in April 2018
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