Qatar World Cup builder suspended over unpaid wages

The government of Qatar has suspended a company working on the 2022 World Cup project following an Amnesty International investigation into unpaid wages.

Qatar Meta Coats (QMC) failed to pay around 100 employees for up to seven months while they carried out façade work on the 60,000-seater Al Bayt stadium, near Al Khor (pictured).

The amounts owed to workers ranged from 8000 Qatari Riyals (£1,720) to 60,000 QR (£12,900).

The company also failed to renew many residency permits of its workers, most of whom come from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and the Philippines.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which organises the World Cup, learned about the unpaid wages last year. It arranged for three months’ worth of salaries to be handed over and said the rest would follow.

QMC was told to suspend all its World Cup operations until the outstanding wages had been paid. The company was also fined and sold to new owners who would be issuing residency permits and health insurance. 

In a statement the Supreme Committee (SC) said: "Since construction began in 2014, we have made significant progress and achievements in the area of workers’ welfare.

"There will always be challenges to address and we are committed to overcoming them."

Amnesty International accused FIFA of failing to take human rights abuses linked to the World Cup seriously because the repayments to wages had been allowed to drag on.

Steven Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, said: "Although recent payments will provide some welcome relief for workers, Qatar’s World Cup organisers told us they had known about the salary delays since July 2019.

"This raises the question of why Qatar allowed workers to continue working for months without pay."

Organisers conceded the delays were "unacceptable" but pointed out that the case came to light after audits and interviews with workers by their welfare department.

"Our efforts resulted in an initial payment of three months overdue salaries to workers," said the SC. "We continued to exert every effort within our power to redress the issue."

The Qatari government said it had learned of the unpaid wages last September, not July as claimed by Amnesty.

A government spokesman added: "Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats’ workforce received irregular salary payments during this period.

"In May 2020 the issue was partially resolved and all salary payments from February to May were paid in full by the company.

"There are a small number of outstanding salary payments preceding February, which will be resolved in the coming days."

The £685m Al Bayt stadium, built in the shape of giant tent, is expected to be opened later this year.

Image: Render of Al Bayt stadium, near Al Khor (Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

  • Freelance journalist Anthony Harwood is former foreign editor of the Daily Mail, and former Head of News at the Daily Mirror.
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