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Santhosh Chandran
The International Labour Organization (ILO) opened its office in Doha on Sunday, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA) has announced.
The launch of the ILO's office comes as part of the three-year technical agreement signed between Qatar and the ILO in October last year.
The agreement seeks to strengthen national labour laws, build government employees' enforcement capacity and ensure that employment and recruitment practices are in line with international best practice.
"Qatar welcomes the opening of the ILO office in Doha. This is another step towards ensuring Qatar has a labour system that reflects global best practice. The government of Qatar now has another partner to promote and protect the rights of our guest workers," Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs HE Dr Issa bin Saad al Jafali al Nuaimi said during the opening ceremony.
The minister added,"Qatar leads the region when it comes to the protection of labour rights. The technical expertise and guidance of the ILO will be crucial for Qatar's transition to a modern labour system that meets the highest standards not only in the GCC but in the world."
The ILO office will help facilitate cooperation between the government of Qatar and the ILO. The ILO will work closely with the MADLSA.
The technical agreement focuses on five areas: improving wages, work conditions and occupational health, safety inspections, implementing a contractual system and procedures, strengthening measures to prevent forced labour and human trafficking, and giving a voice to labourers and energising complaint mechanisms.
A number of projects have been implemented since the start of cooperation between the two parties in January, 2018.
These include holding a workshop focused on reviewing the minimum wage and organising an occupational health and safety conference which addressed issues to protect workers from fatigue during summer.
Workshops for specialised government officials were also held, tackling ways to fight forced labour and human trafficking and establishing mechanisms to strengthen the complaint system for workers. In May, workshops will be held that focus on raising awareness of the domestic workers’ law, wage protection and the ministry’s law on summer working hours.
Speaking on the occasion, Deputy Director-General of ILO Moussa Oumarou said, “Qatar has already introduced a number of legislative and programmatic measures. During our 12 months joint programme, we will work together to determine a permanent minimum wage, completely abolishing kafala, enhancing the capacity of labour inspectors, and preventing forced labour, among other objectives.
“The programme will also make recommendations on improving the efficiency and coverage of the Wage Protection System, to ensure timely transfer of wages to workers. All of the activities of the programme will be carried out in parallel to ensure maximum impact.”
In October, last year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) praised Qatar’s commitment to protecting workers’ rights and assured that the conditions it sought had been met.
In the same month, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson called on other countries in the region to follow Qatar’s example and take similar steps to monitor and reform their labour practices.
The event was attended by Ambassador HE Ibrahim Yousif Abdullah Fakhro and members of the diplomatic corps in Doha.
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