UK companies criticised over workers' rights in Qatar
Concerns raised over actions of gulf state subsidiaries
Last week the Guardian reported that two of the UK's largest construction companies, Balfour Beatty and Interserve, are complicit in human rights violations in Qatar.
The Guardian investigation revealed that labourers on construction sites operated by BK Gulf, co-owned by Balfour Beatty, and Gulf Contracting Company (GCC), co-owned by Interserve, have alleged:
"that they have been exploited and mistreated by labour supply companies hired by the firms to furnish construction sites in Doha with cheap manual workers."
Problems reported by workers included:
- erratic or reduced payment of wages,
- no sick pay
- not being able to return to their home countries
- passport confiscation,
- workers entering employment with high levels of debt bondage,
- pay levels below those agreed when workers were recruited in their home countries.
According to the article:
(Workers) "spoke of a culture of fear and intimidation, with threats of arrest or deportation if they stepped out of line."
One labourer, employed by a supply company but working for GCC, which is 49% owned by Interserve, told the Guardian that "he repeatedly asked his employer to let him leave Qatar after his salary was cut by 20%, but he was forced to stay."
His statement said that:
“I went to the [manager] and said, ‘I will give you the money for my plane ticket. Send me home.’ But he said, ‘Until and unless the contract finishes … you can’t go.’”
Balfour Beatty and Interserve said they were working within the parameters of Qatari law and rigorously monitored their labour supply companies to ensure good practice.
Further Reading: see our features section on Human Rights
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