Qatar stops its controversial ?Kafala system? which has, in reality, functioned as a system for entrapping foreign labour in modern-day slavery. This new development is the result of years of pressure on Qatar by the international trade union movement, and LO?s First Vice President, Arne Grevsen, is very pleased with this turn of events:
– This is very good news. During the past three years, the trade union movement, the civil society and the media have covered, exposed and pressured Qatar to change conditions for migrant workers in Qatar. These conditions have been nothing short of appalling and reminiscent of forced labour in the past. Something that we thought had been eradicated in the modern world.
– It goes to show that it matters if we combine forces in both the trade union movement and in the ILO, Arne Grevsen states.
The oppressing kafala system to be abandoned
The Kafala system, in particular, has been the focus of public attention in connection with the large-scale building projects for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The system requires the individual migrant worker to have a ?sponsor?- a system that traps the worker in a slave-like relationship. And the construction work on the huge stadiums has seen an unprecedented number of deaths which can be attributed to life-threatening conditions and a lack of labour inspection.
This is why the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) chose, in 2014, to lodge a complaint against Qatar with the ILO, the specialized labour agency of the UN.
Together with stories in the press, this has helped uncover the atrocious conditions for migrant workers that the government of Qatar has now, in the agreement with the ILO, committed to stopping:
– The agreement between the ILO, the ITUC and Qatar is a breakthrough for the approximately 2 million migrant workers currently living in Qatar.
It will end the kafala system, ensure a minimum wage and give workers the right to elect their own workplace representatives.
Hopefully, the agreement heralds a new era where actual reforms will be implemented in Qatar. Meanwhile, we are aware that they have yet to be implemented.
It is therefore important that we continue to keep close tabs on the development in the country, says Arne Grevsen.