Gulf Times | Wednesday, 4 April, 2007
Indo-Qatari labour pact to be amended soon
Dr George Joseph... ‘valid reason is a must for termination’
By Arvind Nair
SACKING Indian employees at will could be reduced drastically in Qatar, if not eliminated, when a 1985 bilateral agreement is amended soon.
An addendum protocol, as it is called in officialese, between Qatar and India has already been signed at the bureaucratic level. It will now have to be endorsed by the Cabinet in New Delhi and the Ministerial Council in Doha. Once everything is finalised, it is to be initialled at the political level before the bilateral labour agreement is legally amended.
“Right now, we don’t know when this might happen”, remarked Indian Ambassador Dr George Joseph in conversations with Gulf Times.
India’s Federal Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi would be visiting Qatar on April 13. But, it was not clear yesterday whether the accord would be ready for bilateral signatures during his visit.
The amendment mainly proposes to address the problem of unlawful termination of services of Indians, an issue said to be rampant among certain segments of employees.
The amendment proposes to put an end to sacking of an employee at will. If at all services of a worker has to be terminated before the expiry of a contract, the person would have to be paid the entire salary and allowances for the remainder of the period, the ambassador explained.
Of course, a worker can get sacked if he is found to commit a “provable” offence - like indiscipline, stealing or the like, the ambassador said.
There has to be a “valid reason” if an Indian has to be axed before his contract expires, he stressed.
It might not entirely eliminate the risk of rampant firing of employees, he conceded. But the amendment will give a lot of room for defence if an employee is served with a termination notice, Dr Joseph said. “Each agreement would be an improvement on the previous one. So is this. Each time we try to plug the holes and try to make it more effective”, he said, implying that there could still be loopholes.
The amendment does not cover such domestic staff as maids, house boys, cooks and drivers, who have been traditionally outside the purview of Qatari and Gulf labour laws.
But sources have indicated that authorities are “actively thinking” of a new Qatari labour law that would bring the domestic staff too under the gambit of the labour law.
The original agreement of 1985 was mainly aimed at regulating the flow of Indian workforce and to protect the basic interests of labourers from India and their Qatari employers.
India was the first non-Arab country to enter into such a contract with Qatar.
The ambassador said India was thinking of having a model labour agreement that could be entered into with all countries that import Indian workforce.