Qatar to allow trade union, scrap ‘sponsor’ system

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Qatar is to allow the establishment of a trade union to protect labor rights and scrap the “sponsor” system for foreign workers, a top official said in local dailies on Tuesday.

The union, independent from the labor ministry, “will have the right to receive the complaints of workers and protect their rights,” the ministry’s undersecretary Hussein al-Mulla told Alarab daily.

The union “will be run by Qataris but as a foreigner you will have the right to vote but not run for the board of directors’ elections,” he said, adding that the project awaited the emir’s approval.

The Gulf state will also scrap the much-criticized sponsor system for foreign labor, as it aims to gradually recruit one million workers for the 2022 World Cup tournament it will host, said Mulla.

“There is an intention to cancel the sponsor system and replace it with a contract between the worker and the employer,” the ministry’s undersecretary told the daily.

Highly condemned by human rights bodies, the sponsor system requires that all foreign workers be sponsored by local employers.

In some cases, employers hold workers’ passports and can deny them permission to change jobs.

Qatar has a population of about 1.5 million people, of which less than 300,000 are nationals.