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April 24, 2013

Qatar Foundation Implements Welfare Standards to Guarantee Workers' Rights

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development plans to enhance its migrant workers’ quality of life by launching a new welfare initiative that has been designed to curb unfair employment practices.

Sweeping measures are currently being introduced across Qatar Foundation to ensure the application of fair employment principles for all migrant workers engaged in construction and other service activities. The central objective of this large-scale project is the effective execution of a comprehensive set of standards that can guarantee the rights of workers at all stages of the migration cycle − from the moment they are recruited and until they are repatriated to their home countries.

The new regulations are based upon a holistic and principled approach that combines Qatari Labour Law and international best practice. In October of last year, Qatar Foundation signed the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter. The charter is a strong reflection of the organisation’s belief that dignified living and working conditions are absolutely essential to unlocking human potential and indispensable to the Foundation’s mission of raising the quality of life for all workers in Qatar.

Engineer Saad Al Muhannadi, Vice President of Capital Projects and Facilities Management, stressed, “Qatar Foundation aspires to set an example for the ethical treatment of workers nationwide. This is our paramount consideration when we are in the process of selecting and retaining business partners. Qatar Foundation’s Migrant Workers Welfare Charter reinforces our commitment to improving the quality of life for migrant workers across all our projects.”

In keeping with the preliminary objectives of the welfare charter, the organisation is now instituting the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare which will help apply minimum requirements with respect to the recruitment, living and working conditions, as well as the general treatment of workers engaged in construction and other projects. The mandatory standards will be incorporated into agreements between Qatar Foundation and all its contractors, who are required to comply with the requirements and rules that have been set forth.

By introducing a meticulous system to weed out unscrupulous contractors, Qatar Foundation is confident that it will improve the health, welfare, and efficiency of workers. Among the many unfair employment practices that Qatar Foundation is determined to curb are overcrowded living conditions, and unethical recruitment processes. The organisation seeks to create an exemplary model for the ethical treatment of workers by guaranteeing that all contractors and sub-contractors, such as labour suppliers, labour agencies, and other service providers, adhere to strict regulations and comply with guidelines.

This welfare initiative also marks the establishment of a fully functional Workers’ Welfare Department, which falls under the scope of Qatar Foundation’s Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Directorate. The department is mandated on behalf of Qatar Foundation to act as a regulatory body within Qatar Foundation. It will effectively institute fair employment standards and ensure that all rules and protocols are being followed by respective parties, while pushing for continuous improvement and development.

The Workers’ Welfare Department will carefully screen business partners based on their compliance with Qatar Foundation’s Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare and retain their services based upon a regular assessment of their performance.

With due diligence systems in place, Qatar Foundation intends to set a benchmark for the rest of the country and encourage others to support the Foundation’s efforts to develop a knowledge-based economy that is centred on the well-being of the community at large. Hence, these standards are the result of a collaborative effort among Working Committee members whose backgrounds include law, sociology, health and safety, architecture and management. The committee is also continuously collaborating with other national stakeholders such as relevant ministries and governmental agencies, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, QRail, Ashghal, and other organisations with experience in the subject matter such as Shell and KBR.

Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Technical Director, Yasir Al Jamal, highlighted the close and continuing collaboration with Qatar Foundation. He said, “The safety, health and dignity of all workers on our projects are a top priority for the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee. Just like Qatar Foundation, we too have finalised our Worker’s Charter and will fulfil these important commitments with diligence and care. We look forward to a successful long-term partnership with Qatar Foundation during which we will exchange knowledge to ensure a lasting legacy of enhanced worker welfare standards in Qatar.”

According to the specified standards, new contractors and sub-contractors must attend induction trainings to familiarise themselves with the mandated regulations. Moreover, the organisational processes and policies for the recruitment and retention of workers will be regularly assessed. Welfare audits will take place as an extension to ongoing health, safety and environment (HSE) audits and as further assurance of contractors’ compliance.

A welfare audit will include but is not limited to inspection of the contractor and sub-contractor’s work site, accommodation site, review of employment records, as well as interviews with management and workers. Qatar Foundation will work closely with its contractors to develop welfare targets and to foster a positive and cooperative culture, so as to realise the Foundation’s goals and improve the overall quality of life for all workers.

Subject to national law, violation of the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare regulations will entail corrective measures and may lead to termination of contract.

Eng. Al Muhannadi explained that this is an ongoing initiative that will have to be reviewed frequently and modified accordingly through various auditing processes to ensure that it keeps up with the needs of workers in a manner that is effective to all business parties involved. “The successful and holistic implementation of these practices can only be achieved through the commitment of internal and external entities to act in accordance with the mandate, build the necessary foundations for equitable standards, deliver the best employment practices, and by placing the necessary emphasis on the health and well-being of workers,” he said.

“We are mindful of the challenges that lie ahead as the nation undergoes constant change. Implementation, and the elimination of unfair practices, will not be achieved overnight. This is a process that will take time. The commitment and collaboration of all involved, however, will help us to achieve the success we are working towards.”

Qatar Foundation is participating in the IOSH Middle East Conference, which takes place on 24 April. The conference, which is being held in Qatar, will provide guidance on how to promote health and safety in the workplace. It will also look at recent health and safety developments in the Middle East region and successful initiatives implemented by leading organisations to address common challenges.

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