International body sets guidelines for GCC construction sector

HumanRights 9comeback shutterstockAccording to Human Rights Watch, these guidelines outline how companies can guarantee workers’ basic rights under international law. (Image source: 9comeback/Shutterstock)Human Rights Watch has recently released a set of guidelines that construction companies in the GCC should follow to ensure better working conditions for migrant workers

These include ensuring that contractors and sub-contractors pay all recruiting fees, provide workers with places to keep their passports, provide decent accommodation, abide by requirements for maximum working hours and overtime pay, and pay workers their full wages on time.

The group also urged companies to appoint outside monitors to ensure workers are receiving basic labour protections in practice.

Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said, “In the face of rampant abuse and exploitation of worker’s rights in GCC countries, construction firms need to step up to protect their workforce.”

Migrant workers in the Gulf are employed under a sponsorship system known as ‘kafala’ that effectively ties labourers to their employer and makes it difficult for workers to change jobs without getting their bosses’ approval.

Many labourers in the Gulf construction industry come from South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Meanwhile, Gulf nations have also taken some steps to improve working conditions. Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, this year implemented a number of amendments to its labour law that imposed or increased penalties for violations. The UAE is putting in place reforms starting 1 January 2016 aimed at tightening oversight of employment agreements.

Qatar, which has faced intense scrutiny over its labour practices since winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, has made changes to its labour policies too.

The New York-based rights group’s latest recommendations shift the focus toward employers and are aimed at tackling some of the biggest problems that millions of labourers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and other members of the six-nation GCC face, Yahoo News reported.

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