Stamp out Qatar ‘forced labour’, Labour MP tells alma mater

Shadow minister and UCL alumna calls on university to do ‘all it can’ to stop practice on overseas site

August 28, 2014

Source: Corbis

The shadow minister for international development has stepped up the pressure on University College London to stamp out forced labour at a Qatar campus where the institution has a branch.

Alison McGovern, a UCL graduate, has requested a meeting with the university to discuss how it can avoid inadvertently supporting exploitation by subcontractors at the site.

Last week, Times Higher Education reported on a visit to Hamad bin Khalifa University, formerly known as Education City, by a representative of the International Trade Union Confederation. UCL is one of eight Western universities with branches there.

The ITUC found migrant workers on campus who claimed to have had their passports confiscated when they arrived in Qatar, after being forced to pay recruitment fees to get their jobs. They then had to sign new, more poorly paid contracts, the workers added.

Ms McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, writes that “UCL should be doing all it can” to stamp out these “unacceptable” practices in any location where it works, “even if the individuals concerned are not direct employees”.

As a UCL alumna, “I have a particular personal interest in this instance,” she adds in a letter to Dame Nicola Brewer, UCL’s vice-provost international.

The academic complex in Doha is managed by the Qatar Foundation, whose subcontractors employed the workers in question. A UCL spokesman said Dame Nicola would raise the matter with the foundation and had agreed to meet Ms McGovern to discuss the issues. Dame Nicola would also respond in full to the claims in a future edition of THE, he added.

Responding to the allegations, a Qatar Foundation spokesman said that a statement of labour standards for its contractors and subcontractors, penned in 2013, had addressed many of the ITUC’s complaints.

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips