Wednesday, 2 May 2012

[] Contracts may replace ‘sponsor’ system in qatar


Qatar intends to drop the sponsorship system for expatriates working in the country, replacing it with a  contract which will be binding on the employer and the employee, a senior official has said.
"As and when the new system comes into effect,  a contract signed by the two parties (the employee and the employer) will  be determining the rights and duties of both," said Hussein al-Mulla, undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, in an interview to the local Arabic daily Al-Arab.
He did not give any time-frame for the introduction of the "contract" system 
"We have banned companies from holding the passports of any employee and this is a positive step towards developing the contract process. It affirms the intention to abolish the issue of sponsorship," he pointed out. 
He explained that the mere word  "sponsor" caused a myriad of troubles with international organisations.
"Consequently, we should eradicate this term and substitute it with a contract between the two parties guaranteed by the Ministry of Labour. They (international organisations) say  the word sponsor conveys a picture of enslaving the worker more than anything else," he said.
"However,  should the new system be implemented,  the cancellation of the contract does not allow the foreigner to switch jobs automatically," al-Mulla said. 
"A foreigner can resign to take up another, maybe more lucrative job. However, the resignation annuls the contract and the expatriate will have to go home and the new employer will draw up a new contract with him that will allow him to return to Qatar," he said. 
He also affirmed that there was no justification whatsoever for any company to delay the salary of its employees. "This issue is of utmost importance and HE the Minister of Labour himself emphasises that workers must get their rights in the due time."
Al-Mulla expected that the number of workers recruited to Qatar for infrastructure projects might go up to 1mn, but in phases. 
The official said that Qatar had submitted a suggestion to the GCC that a maid who absconded from her employer in Qatar should be banned from working in any member country. "This aims at curbing this phenomenon." 
He said that new markets were being opened to recruit domestic workers, mostly African countries such as Tanzania and Kenya. "Eastern European countries have also agreed to send domestic workers to the state but Qatari families would not approve them because of the high cost." 
"In most of our meetings with the International Labour Organisation, they inquire about the non-existence of labour unions that defend the rights of workers. Year after year the pressure is increasing on us," al-Mulla said. 
He explained that there had been efforts to establish a  Labour Committee to protect the interests of the workers, whether Qataris or expatriates. "However, the committee should be formed of Qataris only. Expatriates will have the right to vote but will not be nominated as members of the board," he added. 
"We had a labour committee during the days of the oil companies. However, the situation in the Gulf is somewhat different now because Qataris rarely work as labourers," he said. 
"The  Labour Committee project is being carried out with the assistance of the Arab Labour Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and some Gulf trade unions. They came and studied the circumstances in  Qatar." 
The private sector is to be incorporated into this committee and it would function independently from the Ministry of Labour. The committee would have the right to receive the complaints of workers and address them accordingly. The project had been discussed by the cabinet and subsequently referred to the Advisory Council. 
 "We are now awaiting the Emiri approval for this project: HH  the Emir is personally interested in this issue," al-Mulla said.

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