Updated: Sep 17, 2019
James Sinclair and Anisha Rajapakse from the Fair Labour Alliance (FLA) were invited to the inaugural Working Group Meeting on Fair Labour in public companies in Qatar. The event was organized by the ILO and the Ministry of Labour in the State of Qatar.
FLA member FSI Worldwide, represented by Tristan Forster, was invited to speak at the event and delivered a powerful presentation on the importance of ethical recruitment and how to embed sustainable labour practices into company operations. He emphasised the critical importance of legislation, enforcement and the ‘employer pays’ principle. Tristan also stressed the need to understand the problem of labour exploitation throughout the employment journey, from the ‘first handshake’ of the recruitment process onwards.
An interesting and lively debate followed, during which the Founder of the FLA, James Sinclair spoke about innovations in procurement and the development and implementation of corporate best practice.
Fair Labour in Qatar: Best Practice
The event was well attended, with representatives from several large organisations present. It was agreed that greater transparency in the financial aspects of the bidding process for public contracts was important, with detailed ‘line items’ for recruitment being included in all bids. The ring-fencing of a minimum recruitment cost was also raised, which would ensure that projects have the necessary budgets to meet the cost of fair labour practices.
Interventions also focused on the need for robust supplier contracts, clear identification of suppliers and audit and enforcement mechanisms. The idea of a ‘compliance bond’ was also suggested. This would require government contractors to pledge a sum of money, which would be forfeited in the event of serious labour violations being discovered in their supply chain.
Several participants raised the prospect of fair labour pilot initiatives to support Qatar’s ambitious labour reform agenda and drive the marketplace transition to a fair labour model.
The ILO highlighted the importance of abiding by the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights. They cited the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, which emphasises the state duty to protect, the corporate responsibility to respect and access to effective remedies for victims of rights violations. The discussions also highlighted the need to create a level commercial playing field and the importance of incentivising ethical business practices.
Overall, this first meeting was a success. It reinforced the desire of the Government of Qatar to implement the ideas and processes necessary to tackle labour rights violations and set the scene for productive future meetings.
Find out more about what ethical labour really means.