Qatar delays reform to protect salaried workers: newspaper

  • * Some firms not ready to pay staff by bank transfer - report
  • * Qatar under scrutiny as it builds World Cup 2022 sites

DUBAI: Qatar has delayed introducing a new system designed to make sure firms pay salaries fully and on time, a Doha newspaper reported on Tuesday, as the country faces scrutiny over the rights of migrant workers building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

Since being controversially chosen to host the tournament, the desert nation has been criticised over workers' safety, late and incomplete wages and the so-called 'kafala' system under which companies may stop employees from leaving the country.

In February, Qatar's emir approved amending labour laws to make companies pay salaried workers by electronic bank transfer. Firms were given six months before the Wage Protection System came into force but the government has now delayed its launch until Nov. 2 because some were not yet ready, the Peninsula Qatar newspaper reported.

Government officials did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Amnesty International has warned the new system will not cover hundreds of thousands of casual workers or those employed by small firms.

"The protection system has the potential to be a positive because one of the common complaints among workers is not being paid adequately and/or on time," said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrant Rights Researcher at the human rights group.

"An electronic record of how much and when employees are paid should make companies more accountable, but it's only a small step and there's no clarity on what action will be taken against companies that flout the new rules."

Construction firms complain the government and other clients can take so long to pay that it strains cashflows.

The kafala system makes it all too easy for employers to delay wage payments, Amnesty said.

Qatar said in May 2014 it would introduce reforms including the abolition of kafala, but Amnesty says the proposed changes fall far short of ending the practice, and companies would still be able to stop employees joining another Qatari firm for five years.

"Overall, the proposed changes are welcome, but they are of limited scope, have yet to materialise and it's questionable whether they will come actually into force," added Qadri.

"There's a fear the introduction of the wage protection system is being used to deflect attention away from the fact that no other reforms have been implemented."

Amnesty says 441 migrant workers from India and Nepal died in Qatar in 2014, according to figures it obtained from the two countries' governments. The figure covers all migrant deaths, not just those directly related to labour conditions.