Trade unions attempt to inspect Qatari construction sites

International Trade Union Confederation also offers its experts to FIFA on eve of Qatar World Cup discussions
(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Courtney Trenwith
Thu 03 Oct 2013 03:21 PM

A group of international trade union inspectors says it intends to visit construction sites and labour camps in Qatar to report on conditions amid allegations of countless deaths and abuse as the Gulf state builds the infrastructure required for the 2022 World Cup.

Building Wood Workers International (BWI), the global union federation representing construction workers, is sending an investigative mission to Qatar on October 7 and will aim to speak with Qatari authorities, construction companies and sub-contractors to reiterate their obligations to follow international workplace principals.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said it also had offered its experts to world football governing body FIFA on the eve of its executive committee meeting on Thursday, during which the Qatar tournament will be discussed.

The ITUC says it wants to ensure workplace laws and protections are in place to stop what it says are high death rates of workers in Qatar.

The organisation has claimed 4000 people could die building the World Cup infrastructure before a ball has been played, based on the present mortality figures supplied by the Nepalese embassy in Qatar, which claimed 44 Nepalese workers had died during the summer.

A day later, Nepal recalled its ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, who also had previously described the Gulf state as “an open jail”.

The Indian ambassador in Qatar also claims 82 Indian workers died in the first five months of this year.

About 1.2 million foreigners, mostly from South Asia including Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines, as well as Africa, work in Qatar and the ITUC estimates another 500,000 will be needed to help complete stadiums, hotels and infrastructure in time for the World Cup kick off.

Last month, the ITUC claimed the annual death toll among labourers in the Gulf state would rise to 600 a year unless government makes urgent reforms.

“Labour inspection in Qatar has failed miserably, and the government’s announcement that would put new staff into a system that doesn’t work is futile,” ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said.

“FIFA should make it clear to Qatar that the 2022 World Cup cannot take place there if workers’ rights and working standards are not respected. Unions save workers’ lives every day, and FIFA should welcome that expertise being used to good effect in Qatar.

“The restrictive visa sponsorship system for all migrant workers in Qatar ties workers to their employers giving them no freedom or independence to speak out about their working conditions without fear. Only by offering workers an independent voice to raise their concerns will we be able to tackle the widespread abuses of workers in Qatar.”

Human rights group Amnesty International also is planning to release a report on the situation of migrants in Qatar in November.

“FIFA must show the world that they are truly gripping this issue and are acting now to prevent exploitation and human rights abuses from taking place as a result of the World Cup in Qatar,” James Lynch, Amnesty International's researcher on migrant workers in the Gulf, said.

"We need to see clear plans for how FIFA will address this issue with both the Qatar 2022 organising committee and the Qatari government.

“It is critical that their efforts go beyond looking solely at how the stadiums or training grounds will be built, to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who are building the wider infrastructure that will support the World Cup, such as roads, rail and hotels, are properly protected from exploitation."

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