Qatar’s sweeping reform to labour laws continues to attract praises


*as condemnation trails ‘attacks’ against Qatar’s labour laws reforms

By Michael Oche

Qatar’s sweeping reforms to its labour laws have been described as transformative by Trade Unions and African migrant workers.

However, it appears such reforms have attracted deliberate attacks and sustained campaigns from people Trade unionists describe as “anti-progressive”, especially within the Middle East.

With few days to the commencement of the 2022 World Cup, there appears to have been an increase in attacks against Qatar.

Such attacks have been condemned trade unions who commended the Qatari government for embarking on reforms ahead of bigger economies in the middle East like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In August 2020, Qatar became the first country in the Gulf region to achieve the abolition of the Kafala system in August 2020. The reforms were undertaken in a collaborative, inclusive and genuine manner.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was the leading institution coordinating the reforms. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), International Transport Federation (ITF) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) were all part of the reforms processes.

The Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), as the owner of the World Cup event, also was active in the entire process. All these actors applauded the genuine efforts and results recorded by Qatar. Of course, Human Rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International equally monitored the processes. The reports from all these organisations pointed to commendable and encouragement for the gains to be sustained. Not a few people are shocked concerning the renewed attacks against Qatar.

While reacting, Comrade Joel Odigie, Deputy General Secretary ITUC-Africa,
alluded to the genuine and profound reforms made by Qatar. He opined that Qatar should be encouraged and supported to do more. The country has affirmed that the reforms are still a work in process. Therefore, what should be done is the donation of practical support where gaps have been noticed. He noted that he hadn’t seen a single suggestion of an alternative solution, save outright condemnation, which lacks substance.

Our correspondent notes that during a fact-finding visit with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) in February this year, the African unions indicated that Qatar was improving workers’ welfare.

Comrade Odigie said, “in February this year, a delegation of African leaders visited Doha to ascertain the state of reforms on the ground. And this delegation, after the mission, issued a statement which affirmed the genuineness of the reforms in Qatar.

“The mission affirmed that the reforms are working, and the delegation called for further support for Qatar to continue to improve. And as we have seen, no country in the entire Middle East has made any reform closer to what Qatar has achieved. And we thought that the state of Qatar should not only be applauded but further encouraged to do more.

“That these attacks against the state of Qatar is unbelievable; it is unacceptable. And the more we continue to see these kinds of attacks on Qatar, the more it becomes believable that the attacks are motivated by racism. As a Muslim nation and, of course, as a small nation. Nigeria’s former Senator, Shehu Sani, in a tweet (@ShehuSani) he sent two days ago, affirmed racism against Qatar being a Muslim nation.

Continuing, comrade Akhator noted, “for us, we are happy with the level of protection African migrants are getting, and we are excited because there is an assurance to do more to continue to protect them, and we are ready to work and support the Qatari government to continue to improve”.

“We are looking out to Saudi Arabia and UAE for similar things, given that they are bigger economies in the region. These economies have not done One-tenth of the reforms and progressive work that Qatar has done. Qatar has completely flipped its kafala to a progressive human practice contrary to what we have in the entire region.”