Qatar has postponed the launch of an online wage protection system that will ensure the timely payment of wages to migrant workers in the country.
The WPS, which is a significant labour reform by Qatar, was on track to be launched on August 18 but will now be launched only on November 2, local daily The Peninsula reported.
The delay comes as a number of private companies requested more time to comply with regulations although they were notified six months earlier about the launch date of WPS.
More than 50,000 private companies will be a part of WPS, which requires firms to transfer workers’ wages through banks. Companies could be penalised with QAR 6,000 and also face a potential recruitment ban if they fail to comply with the system once it is operational.
The newspaper reported that all banks in the country were prepared to implement the system, indicating that the delay is from the companies’ side.
Qatar has been criticised strongly by rights groups and lobby organisations over its treatment of migrant workers who are helping build the stadiums for FIFA 2022 World Cup. These groups have revealed research showing high fatality rates among migrant workers in construction sites.
According to a 2013 report by the International Trade Union Confederation, an average of 400 workers are reported to have died in the country as a result of harsh working conditions. The report warned that around 4,000 labourers’ lives were at risk as Qatar embarks on a building boom to prepare for the World Cup.
In response to international pressure, the Gulf country promised to introduce a number of labour reforms that would help improve workers’ conditions. They included the introduction of WPS, proper accommodations for its workers and changes to its controversial Kafala sponsorship system.
The Kafala system authorises employers to confiscate travel documents of workers, stopping them from changing jobs.
However the delay in implementing WPS could also potentially slow the pace in implementing other reforms.