Construction

Qatar labour abuse claims: UK firms in spotlight

Investigation into sites run by firms co-owned by Balfour Beatty, Interserve

PHOTO: Men working on a construction site in Qatar. Site pictured was not one of those subject to The Guardian's investigation. Credit: File photo - Shutterstock

Companies co-owned by British construction giants Balfour Beatty and Interserve have been accused of running sites in Qatar where multiple abuses of migrant labourers have taken place.

Workers on construction sites operated by BK Gulf and the Gulf Contracting Company (GCC) have raised “a raft” of allegations of mistreatment, according to a report by The Guardian.

BK Gulf is co-owned by Balfour Beatty, while Interserve holds 49% of GCC.

Workers allege that they have been “exploited and mistreated” by labour-supply firms hired by the two companies.

Issues raised by the workers include the alleged erratic or reduced payment of wages, confiscation of passports, workers entering employment with high levels of debt bondage, and pay levels below those agreed upon when individuals were recruited in their home countries, it was reported.

Some workers, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity due to fears of losing their jobs, said that a culture of fear and intimidation existed, along with the threat of deportation and arrest if they “stepped out of line”.

One employed by a supply company, but working on a GCC project, said that he had repeatedly asked his employer to let him leave Qatar after a salary cut of 20%, but was forced to stay.

“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’,” the worker told The Guardian.

Labourers employed by supply companies, but working on a BK Gulf site at Qatar’s national museum project, said that they were earning a much lower salary than what was promised to them by the recruitment firm in Nepal.

Others claimed that their wages were cut if they missed work because of illness and that medical fees above a certain amount had to be paid by them.

However, the workers on the museum did praise BK Gulf for their safety management on the site, while two workers employed directly by GCC, building an office tower in Lusail City, said that they were happy with conditions in the labour camp.

Despite that, the latest allegations show that serious concerns remain about labour conditions in Qatar.

When contacted by MEConstructionNews.com, Balfour Beatty said BK Gulf is undertaking a review of labour supply companies it uses.

“BK Gulf WLL, in which Balfour Beatty has a 49% share, provides conditions for its workforce which go over and above local regulations and laws,” the Balfour Beatty statement said.

“Where workload exceeds our directly employed workforce capacity or where specialist skills are required, BK Gulf utilises a selection of labour supply companies.

“BK Gulf requires all of its labour supply companies and subcontractors to meet a selection criteria and code of conduct which includes requirements around operative working conditions. The company actively monitors its supply chain to ensure these standards and criteria are being met.

“BK Gulf takes the claims made by the Guardian very seriously and as a result is currently undertaking a review with the labour supply companies it works with to ensure our standards are being met.”

Interserve said in a statement to MEConstructionNews.com that it is investigating the issue. “We are fully committed to supporting and protecting the health, safety and welfare of our employees and those working as part of our supply chain. We take these allegations extremely seriously and will investigate them thoroughly. If corrective measures are required, we will ensure they are implemented immediately,” it said.

Despite repeated attempts by MEConstructionNews.com to contact BK Gulf and GCC directly, no response has been forthcoming.

The claims are the latest in a string of allegations of mistreatment of workers in Qatar.

Amnesty International said in March that migrant workers employed on a World Cup stadium refurbishment project in Qatar are still suffering from abuses despite promises to boost welfare standards.

Dozens of migrant construction workers from countries like Nepal and India were charged high recruitment fees by agents in their home countries, were housed in “squalid” accommodation, and barred from leaving the country by employers who confiscated their passports, Amnesty said.

0 0 vote
Article Rating

Comments

Most Popular

To Top