Friday, December 5, 2014

Not getting off their back, yet: why activists still skeptical of GCC's band aid labour reforms

Full piece on AlBawaba

About 15 million migrant workers of which a majority hail from Asia are employed in the Gulf. Despite a recent agreement to improve their situation, activist pressure is set to continue as many controversial issues remain in place.
Wealthy Gulf nations have agreed on measures to improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers who constitute a substantial segment, if not the majority, in a number of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. The measures constitute a bid to fend off more far-reaching demands by human rights and trade union activists who no longer exclusively target Qatar because of its hosting of the 2022 World Cup but the region at large.
The measures agreed at a meeting of labour ministers of the GCC that groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, and 12 Asian labour supply nations, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines, came amid a recent flurry of condemnatory reports by human rights organizations and trade unions. The reports tackle the plight of domestic workers in the Gulf and human rights in the UAE. A Human Rights Watch report on migrant labour in the Emirates is scheduled for publication in January.
The Gulf’s approach, said Human Rights Watch’s Nicholas McGeehan, can “neatly be summarised as electronic wage payment + better housing + aggressive response to dissent. One would assume that the theory goes that better housing will get the western press off your back, ensuring payment will seriously reduce likelihood of protest, and collective deportations will send out a clear message to any workers giving thought to sticking their heads above the parapet. It's a badly conceived strategy.

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