Nakheel Landscapes has tasted glory in the Workers’ Cup for the past two seasons – but it’s the company’s commitment to workers’ welfare that deserves the most recognition.
Since being hired to work with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) four years ago, Nakheel has lifted the Workers’ Cup twice – and is aiming for a hat-trick of titles this month having already qualified for the quarter-finals of the seventh edition of the tournament.
While Nakheel is winning on the pitch, it is the company’s commitment off the pitch that’s setting a positive example for contractors across the country. Thanks to close collaboration with the SC, Nakheel has introduced a raft of changes to improve working conditions – changes which highlight Qatar’s commitment to workers’ rights, not to mention delivering a proud legacy for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.
Ghassan Oueijan, Managing Director of Nakheel Landscapes, said: “We take the Workers’ Cup seriously. We have a good team, have won the tournament twice before and will give it our best shot this year too.
“Our commitment to workers goes far beyond football though. Our workers are here to secure a better future for their families and it is our duty to support them to the best of our ability.”
By working closely with the SC’s Workers’ Welfare Department (WWD) and applying the Workers’ Welfare Standards as a blueprint, Nakheel has made significant progress in improving the lives of workers, including those engaged on non-SC projects.
The SC has recognised Nakheel’s commitment on a range of issues, including improving accommodation facilities, launching Workers’ Welfare Forums (WWF) and the reimbursement of recruitment fees. In addition, Nakheel has committed to providing an annual flight ticket for all 5,000 of its staff from 2019 – a mandatory requirement of the standards.
Oueijan said: “The standards serve as the template for best practice and since adopting them, we have improved accommodation facilities, eliminated passport retention and tried to tackle ethical recruitment.
“Nakheel received criticism in the past, but we are committed to making a difference. As a local company our mission is the progress of Qatar. Everything is not perfect, but we are proud of our progress and we are committed to looking after our employees.”
In late 2017 the SC commenced the process of tackling the complex issue of recruitment fees, which are often paid by workers in their home countries in order to secure a position abroad. The fees – which are illegal under Qatari law – can mean a worker starts a job heavily indebted to a recruiter in his home country.
Through the efforts of the WWD, 120 SC contractors have agreed to pay back more than QAR 80.2m ($22m) in recruitment fees over the next three years. As of today, QAR 46.6m ($12.7m) of that will be paid to 15,178 workers on SC projects, with the remainder going to 16,560 workers not engaged on SC projects.
Nakheel is one of the companies which committed to reimbursing all its workers – irrespective of the projects they are working on.
Oueijan said: “We have around 400 workers on SC projects, but we’ve rolled out the recruitment fees reimbursement to approximately 5,000 workers. We are repaying QAR 20m to our workers.”
Nakheel has also seen merit in the SC’s determination to give workers a voice by launching a WWF and running elections.
Oueijan said: “We’ve had around 80 percent turnout in our workers’ elections. These forums are crucial because they give our workers a platform to share their concerns and grievances and have a say in issues that impact them.”
Mahmoud Qutub, Executive Director of the WWD, said Nakheel is the perfect example of what can be achieved through a collaborative process and highlighted the importance of engaging with contractors.
“Nakheel didn’t always have the mechanisms in place to support workers’ welfare but by embracing our standards they have helped create positive changes that extend beyond the purview of the SC. This is one of the key legacies of the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said Qutub.
“We are leveraging this mega-event to create broader labour reforms which will raise the bar in workers’ welfare best practice and leave a legacy not just for Qatar, but the world. The progress achieved by Nakheel is proof that it can be done.”