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ITUC: Qatar reforms are new labels for the old system

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said she was appalled with Qatar yesterday for essentially renaming the Kafala system under its new labour reforms.

The Gulf nation’s reforms come into effect yesterday, after years of intense criticism from unions and human rights activists over the slave-like working conditions in Qatar.

Under the new law, workers will allegedly be free to leave Qatar so long as they inform their employer first. Employees whose bosses refuse can appeal to a government committee that must address requests within three days.

However, Burrow refutes the reform and has once again called on Fifa to enforce “genuine change.”

“Qatar’s announcement is just new labels for old laws, perpetuating modern slavery,” she told the Star.

“Workers can still be forced to stay in Qatar against their will for up to five years by employers, the employer can now legally take the workers’ passports and basic rights to union protection collective bargaining are still denied to migrant workers.

“There is no minimum wage and wages are still being set according to nationality rather than the job the worker does.

“Qatar has failed once again to bring its laws into the 21st century and foreign companies operating there must now ensure that labour rights are respected in all their Qatar operations.

“Fifa has the power to press for genuine change and it is now more evident than ever that Fifa must act.”

Unite the union also called for the abolition of the system, telling the Star: “Unite is working with the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) to introduce safeguards for safety at work and decent standards of welfare.

“Yet there is much to achieve and tying migrant workers to ‘sponsors’ who often withhold passports — Kafala — is a system that should be abolished.”

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