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UK-owned contractor accused of Qatar labour abuse

BK Gulf, owned by the UK's Balfour Beatty and Gulf Contracting Company (co-owned by the UK's Interserve), has reportedly flouted Qatari labour law on its work sites

BK Gulf's workers in Qatar have complained about mistreatment. [Representational image]
BK Gulf's workers in Qatar have complained about mistreatment. [Representational image]

BK Gulf has reportedly been accused of flouting Qatari labour law with workers employed for large-scale projects. 

The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) contractor is co-owned by Balfour Beatty, and Gulf Contracting Company (GCC), which is co-owned by Interserve. 

BK Gulf's migrant workers in Qatar "allege that they have been exploited and mistreated by labour supply companies hired by the firms to furnish construction sites in Doha with cheap manual workers".

According to UK daily The Guardian, these alleged abuses include "erratic or reduced payment of wages, passport confiscation, workers entering employment with high levels of debt bondage, and pay levels below those agreed when workers were recruited in their home countries".

The report added: "The workers spoke of a culture of fear and intimidation, with threats of arrest or deportation if they stepped out of line."

BK Gulf labourers working at Qatar's national museum "praised [the] safety management on the site".

Furthermore, two workers, directly employed by GCC for an office tower project in Lusail City, also said "they were happy with the conditions of their labour camp". 

The report continued: "However, despite widely reported problems with the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf, these new allegations suggest that neither British firm has taken the necessary precautions to ensure supply chains are free of labour abuses." 

Construction Week has emailed GCC, Interserve, and BK Gulf, and Balfour Beatty for further details. 

UPDATE

Balfour Beatty has responded to these allegations. 

A statement to Construction Week by Balfour Beatty said: "BK Gulf, in which Balfour Beatty has a 49% share, provides conditions for its workforce which go over and above local regulations and laws.

"Where workload exceeds our directly employed workforce capacity or where specialist skills are required, BK Gulf utilises a selection of labour supply companies."

Balfour Beatty did not respond to Construction Week's query regarding its current relationship with the unnamed labour supply companies mentioned by the UK daily, or which projects the complainant labourers are engaged on.

"BK Gulf takes the claims made by the Guardian very seriously and as a result is currently undertaking a review with the labour supply companies it works with to ensure our standards are being met." 

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Construction Week - Issue 746
Jul 20, 2019