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Labour Rights in the Hospitality Sector in Qatar: A Moment of Opportunity

Guest blog by Alix Nasri, Technical Specialist, ILO Project Office in Qatar, William Rook, Senior Advisor, Strategy & Programmes, IHRB.

Hospitality represents a significant and growing sector in Qatar, with a concentration of major international hotel brands and high-end properties. New hotel openings will intensify in the run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup which is expected to welcome more than one million fans.

It is vital that hotel companies undertake thorough and on-going human rights due diligence, particularly of their recruiters, suppliers and placement agencies.

Some of the labour rights risks in Qatar’s hotel sector look much the same as anywhere else. Hotels outsource a number of services, such as cleaning, maintenance and security, which presents risks due to limited control over recruitment and employment conditions. The sector also encompasses various business models established through franchising, licensing, and operational agreements.

As in all sectors, it is vital that hotel companies work to respond to these challenges by undertaking thorough and on-going human rights due diligence, particularly of their recruiters, suppliers and placement agencies. One effective way to instigate change is to leverage a sector’s collective expectations, and in Qatar we see a good opportunity for the hospitality sector to do that.

In seeking to advance good practice within the sector, Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), are working together to develop a knowledge exchange programme with the hospitality sector. In collaboration with the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), and within the framework of the Qatar-ILO technical cooperation agreement, we are co-convening a series of workshops targeted at hotel human resources managers. These are practical sessions on:

  • due diligence of suppliers and placement agencies;
  • responsible recruitment;
  • worker’s voice and joint-committees;
  • effective grievance mechanisms; and
  • labour market mobility.

We have been pleased to see the active engagement of so many hotels in the initial meetings of this project – it shows the strong commitment of the sector to support Qatar’s labour reform agenda and the potential of multi-stakeholder collaborations to drive compliance and develop good practice.
Shaikha Al Khater, Director, International Labour Relations, ADLSA

Each workshop is designed to develop tools in consultation with hotels, leading to the publication of a comprehensive implementation guide in early 2020 through further consultation with a strategic advisory group on the hospitality sector. This guidance will also benefit from the input of international stakeholders, including employers’ and workers organisations, and national stakeholders including the Qatar National Tourism Council, Katara Hospitality, and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

Already this collaboration has shown promising signs, with the participation of more than 40 hotel human resources managers since the first session. A number of additional simultaneous developments create an enabling environment to drive good practice:

  • First, the international hospitality sector has committed itself to tackling forced labour and trafficking globally through the ITP Principles on Forced Labour as well as the human rights policy commitments made by many leading hotel brands (including several present in Qatar).
  • Second, hospitality, a key industry in Qatar’s long-term economic vision, is an important sector (along with many other sectors) for ADLSA, who together with the ILO Project Office in Qatar plan to work closely with hotel companies to pilot initiatives on fair recruitment and the establishment of joint-committees.
  • Third, the upcoming World Cup in Qatar creates the opportunity to demonstrate good practice through the application of the Supreme Committee’s Worker Welfare Standards to hotel companies. There is also scope in this context for FIFA’s Human Rights commitments to be incorporated into their contracts with the hotels that will lodge their delegates. Taken together, these developments suggest there is potential to create a level playing field of expectations in the sector.

This process, and the strong involvement of hotel human resources managers on the ground, will help ensure that the guidance produced by ADLSA, ILO, and IHRB will be tailored to the operations of hotels and will be widely implemented. Looking further ahead, this work also has the potential to generate innovative guidance relevant to hotels operating elsewhere in the world.

This article was published in 2019 when Sustainable Hospitality Alliance was known as International Tourism Partnership (ITP), part of Business in the Community (BITC).

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