The Sri Lankan Embassy here is pressing Colombo to fix a minimum monthly salary of QR600 for unskilled Sri Lankan workers being hired by cleaning companies in Qatar as janitors.
A senior mission official told The Peninsula yesterday that the cleaning companies here are notorious for paying low salaries to their employees.
A Sri Lankan janitor is on an average paid QR400 a month which is a pittance considering the escalating prices, especially of foodstuff and clothing, said Cryshantha Herath, Labor Attaché at the Sri Lankan Embassy.
He said that while hiring a worker in Colombo, a cleaning company promises a higher salary, but when he arrives here and gets stuck, he is forced to sign a contract for lower wages.
Recently, over 40 Sri Lankan janitors came to the embassy complaining that their company brought them some two to three months ago promising a higher salary but once they were here, they were being forced to sign contracts for QR400 as their monthly wage.
"We took up the issue with the officials of the company and they agreed to raise the salaries of these workers to QR600, but, honestly, we don't know if they would keep their word," said Herath.
While it is mandatory for any employer here hiring a Sri Lankan woman as a maid to get prior approval from the embassy, a Sri Lankan male worker can be recruited directly without the involvement of the mission.
So, although the embassy has minimum salary slabs in respect of both unskilled male and female Sri Lankan workers at QR600, there is no way to ensure it is enforced in respect of the male recruit.
The minimum salary slab fixed by the mission was revised from QR450 to QR600 when the present ambassador, S B Atugoda, took charge. "The ambassador is keen to ensure that the rights of our unskilled compatriots working here are protected," said Herath.
It is, therefore, advisable in the interest of the unskilled Sri Lankan workers that Colombo makes it mandatory for the embassy here to clear their recruitment too.
Talking of the cleaning companies, Herath said that aside from paying low salaries, they are also known for providing sub-standard living conditions to Sri Lankan workers.
So, only if the embassy is directly involved in the recruitment process can it ensure that basic amenities are available at the labor camps of these companies before allowing them to hire workers from Sri Lanka.
About the lowly-paid Sri Lankan nationals coming to the embassy with work-related complaints, the attaché said the daily average is about 10.
Source: The Peninsula