Construction workers from Lee Trading and Contracting (LTC), who are operating on Doha's Al Bidda Tower, have gone almost a year without pay and are facing serious food shortages, according to Amnesty International.
In mid-November Amnesty International’s secretary general Salil Shetty visited the workers’ camp in the al-Sailiya industrial area and subsequently asked the Ministries of Labour and Interior to address the situation at the company as a matter of priority.
“It is now one month since we visited these men and found them living in desperate conditions. But their ordeal has not ended,” said Shetty.
“They have not been paid for nearly a year and can’t even buy food to sustain themselves on a day-to-day basis. They also can’t afford to send money back home to their families or to pay off debts.”
The group, which includes around 60 Nepalese workers as well as migrants from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nigeria, China and Bangladesh, are reportedly owed up to a year’s worth of salaries. They have been fitting out two floors – 38 and 39 - in Al Bidda Tower, which has been dubbed 'Qatar's Home of Football' because a number of football-related organizations have offices there.
Amnesty International said in a statement it had seen documentation suggesting that in total LTC owes the workers around 1.5m riyals (approximately US$412,000). The exact reasons the company did not pay the men remain unclear according to the charity.
The project was completed in October 2013, and since then the workers have been stranded in their camp, without pay and facing severe shortages of food.
The workers have all filed cases against LTC at Doha’s Labour Court to try to reclaim their salaries. But the court has asked them each to pay a fee of 600 riyals ($165) for an expert report to be commissioned into their case. Unless this is paid, the cases cannot progress.
The workers told Amnesty International that the court rejected their request for the fees to be waived because of their financial situation.
Under Qatar’s Labour Law, workers are supposed to be exempt from paying judicial fees.
“This case illustrates perfectly the massive obstacles migrant workers face to getting justice in Qatar. How can a worker who has not been paid for nearly a year afford such a sum of money?” said Salil Shetty.
Because of Qatar’s sponsorship system, the workers are tied to LTC and are not allowed to earn money by working at another company.
The workers also told researchers that the company had not issued them with valid residence permits, which are required under Qatari law, leaving them at risk of arrest.
An LTC representative allegedly told Amnesty International that the company was unable to pay for permits for the workers.
Despite attempts to contact LTC, Construction Week Online was unable to obtain a comment from the company.