The Ministry for Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) and Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) organised a Community Leaders’ Forum on 27 August 2021 in Doha, Qatar.
The Forum met for the first time in person after the two year-long restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, to give migrant workers’ community representatives a platform to discuss social and labour rights’ issues with the Ministry of ADLSA. The meeting was joined by FIFPRO, the global union for professional football players, following several community meetings with migrant workers communities. FIFPRO participated in the Community Leaders Forum to support the dialogue between migrant workers and the Ministry of ADLSA in order to strengthen the positive developments brought about by the labour reform process initiated by Qatar.
The participants represented workers’ communities from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, and several other southeast Asian and African countries. Workers’ community leaders recognised the important progress and the positive impact of the profound labour reform process accelerated by Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. By opening the door to the exercise by migrant workers of their rights, labour reforms have sparked the hope of thousands of migrant workers.
However, a number of concerns were raised regarding the full implementation of reforms such as the removal of remaining barriers for workers to access their rights, an increased capacity for health and safety inspection and controls over payment of wages. In addition, community representatives raised the need for a speedy resolution of complaints as well as education and awareness raising programmes.
The Ministry of ADLSA, represented by Assistant Undersecretary for Labour Affairs, H. E. Mohammed Hassan Al-Obaidly, reiterated commitment to sustain policies and programmes beyond the upcoming FIFA World Cup, and to work on remedies to close the existing gaps between policies and practices. Speaking openly to migrant workers, Assistant Al-Obaidly recognised that “the implementation of the labour reforms is based on the long-term vision of Qatar for 2030. Consensus building and partnerships are essential to reach the aim, but they take time, and need to go hand in hand with expeditious remedies for the immediate concerns of migrant workers.”
Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI expressed support to community leaders and workers’ representatives in their demands to ensure that rights and protections are respected. Yuson explained that “migrant workers will continue to be a part of Qatar’s labour force and economy long after the World Cup. BWI has witnessed first-hand the changes Qatar has gone through to improve labour issues affecting the welfare and rights of thousands of migrant workers. Although much needs to be done to ensure that reforms reach the ground and that they are sustainably implemented, we are confident in the commitment of the Ministry of the ADLSA to ensure that they are not a flash in the pan for migrant workers, but they aim at achieving permanent and sustainable change beyond 2022.”
For both BWI and FIFPRO, the legacy of the Qatar World Cup is the protection of the rights of migrant workers and the betterment of their living and working conditions through a sustainable implementation of reforms. They recognise the Ministry of ADLSA’s commitment to work beyond the World Cup to ensure the labour reforms adopted leave a legacy for migrant workers communities in the next decades.
FIFPRO’s General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman stated that “we have engaged many football players in our migrant workers dialogue, and they are committed to actively support all efforts to empower the voice of migrant workers and to facilitate the necessary platforms so that they can realise the full benefit of the labour reforms in Qatar. Football players and migrant workers share the same fundamental labor rights and FIFPRO therefore supports the efforts of BWI and the Ministry of ADLSA with a vision for further improvement before and far beyond the 2022 World Cup. The engagement in social dialogue and cooperation to produce pragmatic but meaningful changes for migrant workers is essential to improve further”, Baer-Hoffman concluded.
The visit to Qatar and attendance of the Community Leaders Forum follows a series of initiatives resulted in a cooperation agreement between the global payers’ and the construction workers’ unions to sustain the legacy of decent work for migrant workers in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup 2022 and around major football competitions.