10/26/2017, 09.22
QATAR
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Doha announces minimum wage for immigrants

Reforms prompted by charges of labor exploitation. International Confederation of Trade Unions praises "real reforms" ending "modern slavery." Entry into force still to be rolled out. More than 1300 overseas workers killed in the world cup construction sites.

Doha (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Qatar authorities have launched a series of reforms in the labor market, including the introduction of the guaranteed minimum wage. The historic change has been prompted by accusations of exploitation of migrant workers, above all as a result of the preparation of the soccer world cup in 2022.

The announcement precedes the meeting, set for today, of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The UN body has repeatedly called on Doha to abuses of migrant workers.

In a note, the leaders of the International Confederation of Trade Unions (CSI), welcome the Qatari decision as a positive step for workers' rights. Secretary-General Sharan Burrow calls it a sign of the beginning of "real reforms" and the will to "end modern slavery."

The ILO had granted Qatar until November to show progress on the protection of foreign workers in the country. In the case of refusal, it threatened to open a formal investigation, a rare move for the institution meeting from 26 October to 9 November for the plenary session of the inter-governmental body.

Qatar's labor market worked under a sponsorship scheme called kafala, which forced foreigners to ask "permission" to "change employment or leave the country". In December 2016, the authorities declared the end of the model without, however, eliminating systematic exploitation in the labor market.

According to CSI experts, the reforms agreed with Doha foresee: a wage for all workers without distinction of race; employers can no longer prevent foreigners from leaving Qatar; identity papers will be issued by the state, not by businessmen; a central authority will issue employment contracts to prevent deadlines; workers' committees will be formed in the workplace.

At the moment there are no timelines for the entry into force of each of the points of the reform. In Qatar, a nation for months at the center of a political, diplomatic and economic dispute with other Gulf Countries, there are between 1.5 and 2 million migrant workers. Many of these are Asian immigrants, employed in the construction industry.

A 2013 survey by the International Confederation of Trade Unions denounced at least 1,200 immigrant deaths in construction site 2022 World Football Fields. A number tough to prove, but according to some activists and experts it could be far greater.

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