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Pakistan takes up worker payment issues with Qatar

Laborers at work on Dec. 20, 2019 inside the Lusail Stadium, being constructed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha. (Reuters)
Laborers at work on Dec. 20, 2019 inside the Lusail Stadium, being constructed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha. (Reuters)
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13 Jun 2020 02:06:38 GMT9
13 Jun 2020 02:06:38 GMT9

Saima Shabbir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has intervened on behalf of its nationals in Qatar who were working on FIFA World Cup projects by asking the Gulf state to address payment issues, government officials said Thursday.

Around 150,000 Pakistanis are working in Qatar, according to the director-general of the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Pakistanis, Kashif Ahmed Noor.

“In 2015 the Qatar government had promised 100,000 jobs related to World Cup projects and more than 80,000 Pakistanis were sent to that country. We do not have further details about the individual deployment of workers,” he told Arab News.

He said that Qatari authorities had stopped paying a few companies including Descon, a Pakistan-based multinational that had taken many laborers to Doha.

“Descon got many Pakistani laborers employed but some of these individuals started facing salary issues,”  he added. “We took this up with the company and asked its officials to release salaries and provide residence and food to the workers until their return to Pakistan. We also received more complaints related to these payments after the coronavirus outbreak. We have been working with the host government, employees of the company and the employers to deal with the issue.”

Pakistan’s embassy in Doha had taken up all such cases with Qatar’s Ministry of Labor, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui said. “The labor minister has also assured of his support in the resolution of such cases,” she told Arab News, adding that Descon had informed the embassy that nearly all of its employees had settled their dues with the company.

“If and when such a complaint is received, it will be taken up with the company for swift resolution as per the law,” she said.

Human rights organization Amnesty International has said that migrant workers building soccer stadiums are struggling to secure wages that have been owed to them for months, highlighting the ongoing labor issues in Qatar.

Qatar’s communication office said in response: “The government has made significant progress in recent years to reform the country’s labour system. There are still issues to overcome, including those related to the attitudes and behaviors of a small minority. This will take time, but we remain firmly committed to the task.”

Qadir Bakshi, a Pakistani laborer who was working on a World Cup football infrastructure project for the last three years, said his company terminated his contract when he demanded his three-month salary.

“I used to work as a laborer in Karachi and came to Doha through Descon 3 years back,” he told Arab News by phone from the Qatari capital. “I was working as a helper on a road project which was part of the larger FIFA World Cup infrastructure project. They have not paid my salary for the last three months.

When we sent messages to the Qatar government’s helpline, the company terminated our services. They fired a total of 18 people from a single project and asked us to go back to Pakistan or search for another job in the Arab country.”

He did not have the money to buy food, let alone a flight to return to Pakistan, he said. “I am living with five other friends who have been bearing my expenses, but I have eight family members in Pakistan who are suffering because of this.”

Another Pakistani worker, Raja Muzzaffar from Bahawalpur, also lost his job after being unpaid for months. He had been a welder since 2018 for a company that was making residential units for the World Cup near the main stadium. “First, they stopped our salaries and then they terminated our services two months ago. We were 20 people from Pakistan and we lost our jobs,” he told Arab News, adding that all the laid off-workers were still living in the company’s camps as they did not know where else to go.

“The Pakistani Embassy gave us food packages in Ramadan that we are still using. Our company asked us to search for another job, but no one is employing us due to the pandemic.”

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