At a time when Qatar has been expressing its commitment to welfare of Nepalese migrant workers, the recent visit of Qatari minister for Labor and Social Welfare Dr Abdulla Bin Salih Al Khulaifi is very significant.
In the context of approval of an amendment to the national labor law involving the payment of workers through direct bank deposit by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on February 17, the visit has meaning.
Speaking at press conference organized to inform about the bilateral talks between the two countries, Qatari minister Dr. Khulaifi said, "Labor rights and safety of workers are being looked through labor amendment," adding, "Workers are not supposed to pay anything to get work permit in Qatar. Our law requires paying the workers their air tickets and extra fees for recruitment."
He said that the agencies and people who don't abide by the country's law would be prosecuted. Any activities which are against the labor laws will not be tolerated.
Likewise, speaking at the press meet, State minister for Labor Tek Bahadur Gururg said, "It is very important that our workers are provided with good healthcare services so that they don't die unnatural death."
Minister Gurung even added that both countries have agreed to strongly monitor unscrupulous manpower agencies and "middlemen" so that workers can go to work in Qatar at zero cost.
Issues like life and health insurance facilities for Nepali workers, prior training for them and recruitment of skilled manpower, among others, were major agendas of the meeting.
Upon the urging of Nepal government, Minister Dr. Khulaifi agreed to establish an electronic linkage between two ministries through which all information on workers can be shared.
According to government data, there are more than 4,00,000 Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. Qatar is the third largest destination country for Nepali migrant workers.
In recent development, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani issued Law No. (1) of the year 2015, amending some provisions of the Labour Act No. (14 ) of the year 2004. According to a news item published in Doha News, the law is to be enforced and will be published in the Official Gazette.
Under the new provisions, companies will be required to pay their employees through direct bank transfers, making it easier for expats and the government to scrutinize and document any late or non-existing payments.
Employees should be paid in Qatari currency once a month, or for some category of workers, every two weeks. According to the full text of the amendments, which was published by Al Arab, firms will be given a six-month grace period to follow the new rules, which could be extended further by Qatar’s Minister for Labour and Social Affairs.
Bank salary transfers are part of a package of labor reforms that Qatar has been working to implement for the past several months.
Experts in Nepal have lauded the Qatar government's announcement. "The Qatar government has been saying this for long, especially after the horrible working conditions of Nepali migrant workers were exposed in international media. The announcement has to be translated into action," said Dr. Ganesh Man Gurung, who holds a PhD in migrant labor.
Minister Khulaifi also said some 55 manpower agencies in Nepal have been banned with the help of Nepal's embassy in Qatar for violating recruitment regulations. "Our ministry's inspection department conducted 51,000 raids on companies to check their compliance with labor law and 200 firms were banned," he said.
According to the Labor Ministry of Qatar, some 9,600 labor complaints were received during 2014. Of these, 6,800 were resolved amicably and 800 forwarded to the courts. The recent understanding reached between Nepal and Qatar will provide safer environment for Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar.
During his visit to Nepal Minister Dr. Abdhulla Bin Salih Al Khulaifi also met prime minister Sushil Koirala and minister of Foreign Affairs Mahendra Pandey.