Stung by boycott, some Qatari firms asking employees to take unpaid leave

Last week dozens of Indian and African workers at Doha hotels were told to take unpaid leave and return to their countries.

:: Qatar’s feud with the four boycotting neighbors is making life harder for some foreign workers in the country. This is worsening the situation caused by layoffs due to low oil prices and a work-sponsorship system that restricts their movement.

Fresh vegetables usually trucked across Qatar’s land border with Saudi Arabia, a route now blocked, have increased in price. That is indebting some workers from places like India and Nepal who typically earn 800 rial ($219.78) a month and who make up about 90 percent of Qatar’s 2.7 million population.

South Asian workers have been left stranded on Qatari farms in Saudi Arabia without food after their Qatari employers fled to Doha in June, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Last week dozens of Indian and African workers at hotels in Doha were told to take extended unpaid leave and return to their countries because of a drop in occupancy caused by the embargo.

“Our rooms were filled with Saudis on weekends but they don’t come to Qatar any more. We can’t have workers cleaning empty rooms,” said a Doha hotel manager, declining to give his or his company’s name.

Delayed salaries

Qatar has denied reports of lower hotel occupancy rates and said its preparations for the World Cup have not been affected. The tiny Gulf state’s economy, buoyed by vast natural gas reserves, can weather years of sanctions, officials say.

Raji, a Bangladeshi crane-operator, said his manager told him that his pay could be delayed next month because the company was running out of steel, previously imported from the UAE.

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