You may recall a post from earlier this year explaining the concept of “office boy”, the maroon vested mob of migrant workers who bring coffee, tea, and fruit to my desk. The office boy in this area of the facility is named “Flip Flop”. He holds the keys to the office pantry, where the milk and sugar is kept. When the coffee station is out of creamer, only Flip Flop may bring me more. Each area of our facility has a designated office boy. I like to think of them as little drug dealers, except instead of drugs, they control the coffee stations. They stick to their turf and have specific clientele. Flip Flop occasionally makes copies for me and runs my expense reports to the finance center.
“He actually has a background in computers. He is very talented…….Poor Flip-Flop. He was conned” explains one of the senior engineers. He proceeded to tell us the story of FlipFlop and his gang of fellow office boys. This is a story which is becoming more popular in the news due to attention from FIFA and the World Cup stadium construction in Qatar. However, it should be knows that forced labor/slavery is extensive in this country, regardless of stadiums and special events. Truthfully, most of the people I work with are catagorized with the migrant workers. They are contractors, working for another company.
In the words of my co- worker: Let’s say a Qatari wants to make some extra cash. He will go to one of these agencies which recruits from, say, India, and say ‘I can sponsor 4 visas for 5000 QR each. So, 20000 QR in cash.’ The recuriting agency will find people in India, and promise them good jobs in Qatar for 2000 QR a month, which is a lot of money for these people. The recruiting agency will pay the money, like a loan, then get them visas, bring them over here. As soon as they get here, the company which hires them holds their passports. Now these people are in debt to the recruiting agency, and they can not leave the country. They end up being paid only like 800 QR a month, and they can not do anything about it. This is why I try to help them out any small way I can. When I win a gift card for a good appraisal, I always give it to Flip Flop.
I wonder how they view the people they work around. For example, I am not their captor, but they see me and effectively work for me every day. Am I part of the system which has brought them here?