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New Union Launched In Qatar

Friday, November 6, 2015

GMB Call On Carillion And Other UK Firms To Do Business With New Union Launched In Qatar On 6th November For Migrant Construction Workers

Workers for Carillion in Qatar sleep ten to a room in lodging reminiscent of tenement slums in Victorian London and nothing has changed despite claims to the contrary says GMB officer who visited the labour camp this week.

GMB is calling on UK construction companies like Carillion operating in Qatar to recognize and do business with the new Qatari branch of the Philippines Workers Association which was launched today (6th November) in Doha. The launch has the support of the Government of the Philippines and Embassy personnel were in attendance at the launch.

Bert Schouwenburg GMB International Officer is on his second visit to Qatar is attending the launch. See notes to editor for copy of GMB press release following Bert Schouwenburg first visit in December 2013.

Earlier in the week Bert Schouwenburg saw the appalling conditions that migrant workers employed by a Carillion sub- contractor Medtel are subject to in the labour camp they are resident in.

On Monday 2nd November a 35 day Employment Tribunal hearing began in Bristol for 51 GMB members employed by Carillion in Swindon Hospital. Their full claim against Carillion include complaints of direct and indirect discrimination because of race and/or religious belief, harassment related to race and religious belief, breaches of Working Time Regulations, unlawful deductions of wages and detriment on trade union grounds.

In a separate dispute GMB is taking Carillion to the High Court in London seeking compensation for blacklisted construction workers. 224 construction workers from around the UK were victims of blacklisting by Carillion. The next date for a High Court hearing is Dec 2015.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said "GMB welcomes the formation of a branch of the Federation of Free Workers (Philippines) in the Qatari capital, Doha.

For too long migrant workers have suffered at the hands of employers who have treated them as little more than slaves, safe in the knowledge that they can act with impunity in the neo-medieval desert kingdom.

Given that trade unions are illegal in Qatar, this is a brave move by Filipino construction workers and we look forward to migrant workers from other communities following suit.

GMB stands in solidarity with its trade union comrades in Qatar and calls on British companies operating there to take the lead by engaging in collective bargaining with the new organisation thus showing that there is a civilised alternative to bonded labour, exploitation and repression.

This new union is badly needed as sadly Carillion has shown little commitment to cleaning up its act in Qatar.

Earlier this week I saw at first hand the appalling conditions in a labour camp run by Medtel who are Carillion’s contractor in Qatar. Workers sleep ten to a room in accommodation reminiscent of tenement slums in Victorian London. I was last here two years ago and nothing has changed, despite Carillion's claims to the contrary.

Carillion and the other UK construction firms operating in Qatar should recognize and do business with the new Qatari branch of the Philippines Workers Association."


Contact: Bert Schouwenburg, 0207 391 6757 or 07974 251764 or GMB press office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

GMB press release dated 2nd December 2013 on the delegation visit to Qatar


The notorious "Kefala" system that turns exploitation into virtual slavery has to be abolished and the notion that a World Cup can be held in Qatar until this occurs is simply ludicrous says GMB member on the delegation

On the eve of the third anniversary of Qatar winning the controversial bid to host the 2022 World Cup an international trade union delegation to the gulf state finds no improvement in living and working conditions of migrant workers.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC said international pressure is growing, governments, human rights organisations and FIFA have all called for fundamental workers’ rights and an end to the Kafala system.

The delegation will report back to Governments in Australia, Austria, Denmark and the UK as well as the International Labour Organisation, FIFA and the UN Human Rights Rapporteur.

During the four day visit the eleven member international delegation held worker hearings, and was shocked by the increasing numbers of women and children in detention centre and rising discontent and unrest of workers in squalid labour camps.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC said “This is an easy choice for the Qatari government; the perplexing question is why won’t they take it. Professional and poor workers alike tell the same stories; they came to Qatar with optimism and good will, only to face despair when their employer decides they are disposable and refuse to pay wages, sack them without benefits and or refused to sign their exit permit.

We have again offered support for change, but the Government must make a commitment to implement workers.

This week we welcomed the escape of Zahir Belounis from Qatar, but find that cases like Mahmoud Bouneb and his wife Malika Alouane who were similarly invited into the country only to be disposed of and left being owed benefits and not granted exit visit are numerous.

Their desperation is multiplied by when you visit the labour camps and hear the tales of terror from the poorest and most vulnerable workers forced to hit in squalor.

What we’ve seen his week can be summarized as how not to design a system for the global workforce on any basis:  human and labour rights; good will and international reputation or; productivity based on loyalty and efficiency

International companies should be on notice about the reputation risk of doing in business in Qatar without respect for workers’ rights.”

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International officer on the delegation in Qatar, said “Hundreds of thousands of workers from Nepal, India, Phillipines and Bangladesh are being treated little better than animals in Qatar.

GMB will be asking UK contractors to work with unions with a view to abolishing the notorious "Kefala" system that turns exploitation into virtual slavery. The notion that a World Cup can be held in Qatar while this occurs is simply ludicrous.

FIFA have called for the improvements of core ILO standards and an end to the Kafala system, they will report back in March 2014, we can only hope the Qatar Government will make the right choice.

The ITUC estimates 4000 more workers will die before a ball is kicked in the World Cup, unless Qatar introduces reforms and meets international labour laws.


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