By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter
A large section of workers employed by security agencies wants to quit after completing two years in service, it has been found.
The revelation comes close on the heels of workers of an Asian-managed private security firm alleging that their employer had flouted provisions of Qatar’s Labour Law. The matter was first highlighted by a security worker in a mail to Gulf Times.
Usually, say sources, workers hired by security firms are allowed to go home only after completing two years in their job. This is why the employees wait until then before putting in their papers.
The aggrieved workers say the factors that force them to discontinue their services include excess work hours, absence of weekly-offs and low salaries. The work conditions, they add, are harsh as they often have to remain standing for hours while on duty.
“The conditions are unbearable for most of us, especially when working outdoors during the summer in places such as construction sites,” said a Nepalese worker who is waiting to complete two years in his job before he quits.
Another security guard with similar intentions said it was quite difficult for him, and many others, to continue working in the prevailing conditions.
A manager at a security agency - which reportedly offered better facilities to its employees - said though many workers did not return from their vacation, the company normally did not face any problems in recruiting fresh hands, particularly from poor countries in Africa and Asia.
However, the cycle continues as many of the new recruits, too, are unwilling to renew their contract after the first two years. It has also been found that there has been a significant rise in the number of African security personnel in the past couple of years.
While the plight of security workers is repeatedly debated on social network sites that are popular among the country’s expatriates, a close look at the ground reality suggests that no concrete steps are taken to improve the situation.
“Some residents are under the impression that security personnel are better paid compared to construction workers, which is not true. In fact, our condition is worse than that of construction labourers,” said a Sri Lankan expatriate who works as a security guard at a highrise in the vicinity of City Center Doha.
He said while the workers of many construction companies were given packed food during duty hours, most security personnel had to fend for themselves. Only a few of them were lucky enough to get food free of cost at their workplace.
Some security workers told this newspaper that the place where they lived in Industrial Area had barely 25 washrooms for more than 1,500 people.
While security workers in most companies are united in seeking the intervention of the country’s labour department to improve their living conditions, they seem clueless as to how to draw the attention of the authorities. While airing their grievances recently, a group of workers wanted to know how they could raise the matter with the National Human Rights Committee.
A legal activist said the security workers were well within their rights to lodge a complaint, either as a group or individually, with the labour department over issues such as denial of weekly offs, predetermined overtime allowance and poor living conditions. However, he added, they should inform their embassies about the matter before lodging a complaint.
A senior official of a well-known retailer in Doha said they had stopped hiring guards from security agencies due to repeated complaints of ill-treatment of workers.
“Hiring personnel from such companies is not only expensive for us, but many of their workers also have grievances against such firms,” he pointed out, adding that his company has raised its own security team for the group’s shopping centres.
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