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Cablegate: Qatar's Bilateral Labor Agreements - All Pomp And

VZCZCXRO8734
RR RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHPOD
DE RUEHDO #0088/01 0351116
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041116Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DOHA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7541
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0110
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0111
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 0020
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0072
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0174
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0325
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DOHA 000088

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, DRL/ILCSR
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ELAB ECIN ECON SMIG IN ID BG
CE, VM, NP, QA
SUBJECT: QATAR'S BILATERAL LABOR AGREEMENTS - ALL POMP AND
NO CIRCUMSTANCE

1. (SBU) Summary: Qatar has recently signed a number of
bilateral labor agreements with South and Southeast Asian
governments. Local and regional press have touted the
agreements as benefiting the hundreds of thousands of
unskilled and semi-skilled laborers and domestic workers in
Qatar from those countries. In fact, however, the agreements
are little more then window dressing to address the often
appalling expatriate labor situation in Qatar. End summary.

2. (SBU) Since November 2007, Qatar's Minister of Labor and
Social Affairs (MOLSA), Dr. Sultan bin Hassan Al-Dhabit
Al-Doussari, has signed no fewer than six bilateral labor
agreements or additional protocols with South and Southeast
Asian countries, including India, Nepal, Indonesia,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Post has requested
copies of the agreements from the Government of Qatar (GOQ)
and from the foreign missions in Qatar. To date, only the
Nepalese Embassy has provided a copy of any draft agreement.
The following summarizes press reporting and foreign embassy
views of the agreements:

INDIA: Additional labor protocol signed November 20, 2007 in
New Delhi with Indian Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs
Vayalar Ravi. The agreement is said to extend provisions of
the original 1985 Labor Agreement to cover domestic workers.
It also expands the mandate of the Joint Committee for mutual
labor issues. The Labor Attache at the Indian Embassy told
us the bilateral agreement does not touch on work conditions
or minimum salaries of workers.

INDONESIA: Labor agreement signed January 21 in Doha with
Indonesian Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Ir Erman
Suparno. The agreement provides for a Joint Committee on
Labor Cooperation to seek possible employment opportunities
in Qatar for Indonesian workers. The official at the
Indonesian Embassy in Doha responsible for labor issues told
us he has not seen a copy of the labor agreement and could
not provide any insights on it.

BANGLADESH: Additional labor protocol signed January 6 in
Dhaka with the Bangladeshi official in charge of Foreign
Affairs, Labor and Expatriate Affairs, Iftikhar Chowdery.
The Bangladeshi Ambassador to Qatar, Maroof Zaman, noted the
additional protocol would increase the number of Bangladeshi
workers in Qatar. The Labor Attache at the Bangladeshi
Embassy told us he is unaware of any new protocol.

SRI LANKA: Labor agreement signed January 9 in Colombo with
Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and
Welfare Dr. Keheliya Rambukwelle. The agreement underscores
the need work contracts that will guarantee basic rights and
duties consistent with the Qatari Labor Law. The Labor
Attache at the Sri Lankan Embassy told us he was informed
that a labor agreement had been signed, but copies of it will
only be released after ratification by the Sri Lankan Cabinet
and Parliament.

VIETNAM: Labor agreement signed January 11 in Hanoi with the
Vietnamese Minister of Labor and War Invalids. The agreement
notes that for Vietnamese to be employed in Qatar, a signed
work contract between the employee and the employer outlining
the main terms, conditions, specific obligations, and rights
should be presented. The contract must not contravene the
agreement or the Qatari Labor Law. The agreement with
Vietnam also provides for a joint committee to oversee its
implementation and regulate Vietnamese labor employment in
Qatar. We were unable to obtain reaction from Vietnamese
diplomats, as there is no Vietnamese diplomatic mission in
Qatar.

NEPAL: Additional labor protocol signed January 20 in Doha
with Nepalese Minister of Labor and Transport Management
Ramesh Lekhak. The protocol contains provisions for
establishing a joint committee of member-experts from both
countries to review labor and related issues. It reportedly
states that if an employer terminates the services of a
Nepalese worker during the contractual period without his
consent, the employer must fulfill salary and legal

DOHA 00000088 002 OF 002


obligations for the entire contractual period. The draft
protocol provided to us by the Nepalese Embassy February 3,
however, contradicted this by stating that workers in this
situation would be paid only what they had accrued. The
draft protocol shown to us also stated that Qatar retains the
right to deport "any number of Nepalese workers" at the end
of their contract period, or at any time, "if their presence
in the State of Qatar becomes contrary to the public interest
or national security of the state."

3. (SBU) We asked the Legal Department at the MOLSA January
31 for copies of the agreements. Rather than providing them,
a legal advisor told us that the new agreements and protocols
amounted to nothing new beyond obligations already stated in
the 2004 Labor Law.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The signing of the new labor agreements
and protocols was widely covered in the local and regional
press. Rather than providing new protections for the
hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in the country, as
press reports suggested, the agreements appear to reinforce
GOQ control over the workforce and ensure continued Qatari
access to cheap labor from abroad. We believe the recent
spate of labor agreements was intended to give the appearance
of real labor reform without actually delivering it.
RATNEY

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