Still no improvement for migrant workers, union delegation claims

4 December 2013

A delegation of international trade unions left Qatar this week saying it found no improvement in conditions for migrant workers after a four-day visit to the Gulf state preparing for the 2022 World Cup.

The visit followed a joint call last month by FIFA, international trade union groups and German football officials for Qatar to honour its pledge to improve the situation.

Human rights organisations, FIFA and the European parliament have raised concerns about the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar after an investigation by UK newspaper, The Guardian, revealed treatment amounting to "modern day slavery".

During its visit the 11-member delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) held worker hearings and was shocked by the increasing numbers of women and children in detention centres and rising discontent and unrest of workers in squalid labour camps.

"What we’ve seen this week can be summarised as how not to design a system for the global workforce on any basis," said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow: "human and labour rights, good will and international reputation, or productivity based on loyalty and efficiency."

The delegation will report to governments in Australia, Austria, Denmark and the UK as well as FIFA and the UN Human Rights Rapporteur.

It will also report to the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO), which upholds workers’ rights to a living wage, humane and safe work conditions and the elimination of forced and compulsory labour.

Construction workers from Bangladesh take a break near new highrise office buildings and hotels under construction in Doha (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Ms Burrow and FIFA have called for the implementation of core ILO standards in Qatar and an end to Qatar’s "kafala" sponsorship system.

They will report again in March 2014.

"We can only hope the Qatar Government will make the right choice," she said.

A recent Amnesty International report claimed to reveal widespread worker exploitation in Qatar.

The report in November documented abuses such as salaries being lower than promised, workers having their pay withheld, employers leaving workers "undocumented" and therefore at risk of being detained by the authorities, and workers having their passports confiscated.

The ITUC claims that 4,000 more workers will die before a ball is kicked in the World Cup unless Qatar introduces reforms and meets international labour laws.

After the Guardian reports Qatar pledged to recruit more inspectors to crack down on companies that are not complying with labour laws.

On 20 November German Football Federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach, FIFA president Joseph Blatter and the president both of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) and of the ITUC, Michael Sommer, met and agreed that fair working conditions must be introduced quickly in Qatar.

"If Qatar does not respond properly, then the consequences must follow, and the World Cup taken from Qatar," Michael Sommer said.

FIFA’s Joseph Blatter said: "I am convinced that Qatar is taking the situation very seriously. These very discussions about Qatar show just what an important role football can play in generating publicity and thus bringing about change."

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in Markets