Strikes in Qatar: Foreign workers break law to protest over withheld wages

Foreign construction workers in Qatar have received three months’ worth of overdue wages after a rare strike earlier this month.

On 4 August workers in the Al Shahaniya area downed tools and protested after two companies neglected to pay wages in May, June and July, the Qatari government said in a statement.

Abusive labour practices that lead workers to take such a risk will continue until the Qatari government makes good on its promise to repeal the kafala system– Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch

Images posted by protesters on social media show hundreds of men blocking a highway, believed to be the Dukhan highway, which runs through Al Shahaniya.

A second strike elsewhere in Qatar has been reported by campaign group Human Rights Watch.

Strikes are illegal in Qatar, but the government investigated the complaints of the Al Shahaniya strikers and arrested "authorised signatories" of the two companies, it said on 17 August. 

It then paid the outstanding salaries of the workers through the Wage Protection System, and said they had the right to change employers because theirs had broken Qatar’s labour laws.

Under Qatar’s hated kafala sponsorship system, workers must get permission from their employer if they want to work for another company, leading to many reported instances of abuse. 

The government said its investigation "confirmed that salaries had been delayed following a period of negative cash flow at both companies, caused by non-payments elsewhere in the supply chain".

Human Rights Watch received a report of a second strike on 5 August involving up to 1,000 employees of a Qatari maintenance company. 

A foreign employee of the company told the organisation that there had been threats from management to deport workers if they refused to sign new contracts that cut their wages.

"The workers in Qatar are going on strike in a country that bans them from striking or joining unions, and against the backdrop of a labour system that leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation," said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"Abusive labour practices that lead workers to take such a risk will continue until the Qatari government makes good on its promise to repeal the kafala system."

Image: Protesters blocking a highway in Qatar on 4 August posted photographs on social media, which were curated and shared by journalist and filmmaker Benjamin Best. 

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  1. I am a security guard working IN QATAR ,to be honest the salary is too little to sustain us ..a basic of 750 QR Riyal whereby one is also needed to buy food… Security in UAE are paid so well , I urge the government to put it into low at least a security guard should atleast earn a basic salary of 1800 or even 2000QR Riyal

  2. I kindly beg Qatar government to increase the salary of contractors at least to 1300 basic

  3. The Companies in questions should be published.
    They are not the only once… thousands of workers,office staff and management staff not getting paid..there is money crisis in the Industry….
    Btw I am still waiting for my Salary from March, April and May 2018 and leave can a Company get away with such operation practice….

  4. I’m in security work and wages by the company i work leaves alot to be desired my basic salary of 900 has been cut to 750 Qatar riyals this is demolarising if you compare with security guards in UAE

    My appeal to authorities in Qatar is to consider our plight and increase our pay to at least 1500 basic salary fr the beginning

    Wishing u all the best of luck

  5. Workers should get salaries on time, as saying ” the wages must paid before the swait get dry”. To make as sample, a employer is responsible for employees, a company is responsible for staff and a country (Qatar) is responsible for all people.

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