Three Gulf States in the past weeks have announced reforms to labour management, focussing primarily on contracts.
One of the main problems faced by lower-income migrant workers in the region is contract substitution, whereby they are promised a certain set of terms and benefits in their home countries, and on arriving in countries of employment, are provided with a scaled down contract.
Earlier this week, the UAE also announced a new set of labour rules, which according to a Labor Ministry statement, “...will also bring greater transparency, clarity and tighter monitoring of labour contract conditions and ensure both employer and employee enter into fully voluntary relationships.”
According to a report in a local daily the decree will see the creation of a new, unified work contract.
“Ministerial Decree 764 of 2015 on ministry-approved standard employment contracts states that a worker must be presented with an employment offer that conforms with the unified contract and then must be signed by the worker.
All contract renewals in force beforehand must use the new unified contract which, in addition to the employment offer, the terms of which cannot be altered or substituted unless approved by the ministry.
No clauses can be added to any contract unless compliant with and approved by the labour ministry.”
The AFP reports that under the new policies, prospective workers would be asked to sign a standard employment offer in their home country that would in turn be filed with the Labor Ministry before a work permit is issued. That agreement would then be registered as a legal contract once the worker arrives in the country, and no changes would be allowed unless they extend additional benefits that the worker agrees to.
Kuwait has approved a unified contract. Following the passage of a new law for domestic workers in June, Kuwait's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has approved a standardized work contract for migrant workers. The contract was drafted and approved by the ministry's manpower authority in accordance to Kuwait’s Labour Law Act number 6/2010, especially article 28 which includes the date of commencement, validity, job nature and wages in contracts. Officials said the contract was reviewed by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kuwait Labour Union, Banks Union, Industries Union, Hotels Union and the Authority’s Youth Committee.
The contract will be crucial as it specifies leaves, holidays, and end-of-contract compensation. It also allows employers and workers to add additional articles so long as they do not contradict existing laws. The manpower authority thinks this will reduce “labor disputes.”
Embassies have been provided with a copy of the new contract to be translated into other languages and have it introduced to migrants in Kuwait. Representatives of embassies will participate in meetings with the ministry “to discuss the goals of this contract,” which must be adopted by all agencies.
Early next year Qatar will begin implementation of its electronic contract system, to combat contract substitution.
According to a senior Qatari official, under the new system, labourers will be able to access a government website and by entering personal details such as their name, ID or visa number, be able to view their work contract.
The service will be available in 10 languages including Nepalese and Urdu, giving workers access to the official Qatari contract.
However, this system will not be mandatory. This raises questions once again on Qatar’s commitment to reforming the Kafala system and improving labor standards in the country. Even the deadline on proposed Wage Protection System has been pushed back.