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Thu 17 Nov 2011 11:20 AM

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FIFA in firing line over Qatar workers rights

Unions warn of campaign to strip Qatar of 2022 World Cup over labour conditions

FIFA in firing line over Qatar workers rights
Image for illustrative purposes only
FIFA in firing line over Qatar workers rights
FIFA president Sepp Blatter will receive the letter today, the ITUC said

FIFA will be warned today by labour organisations that it faces an international campaign to move the 2022 World Cup from Qatar unless it ensures the host nation respects workers' rights.

International union representatives are to present FIFA president Sepp Blatter with a letter today telling him of the campaign 'No World Cup in Qatar without labour rights'.

FIFA agreed to meet the unions after a trade union report on migrant workers in Qatar and United Arab Emirates criticised "inhuman" conditions this year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said in a statement.

The ITUC said unions were "continuing to receive reports of unsafe working conditions and abuse of workers' rights as Qatar sets out to build nine stadiums in 10 years using mostly migrant labour."

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: "FIFA has the power to make labour rights a requirement of the Qatari authorities who are hosting a World Cup."

Labour organisations "would mobilise workers and football fans to target each of FIFA's football associations and the international body to stop the World Cup in Qatar if labour rights are not respected," the ITUC added.

"With 308 national trade union centres in 153 countries, the international trade union movement has the members, the power and the mandate to take action to stop the Qatar World Cup."

Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, plans to invest about $88bn over the next decade to host the world’s most-watched sporting event.

The wealthy Gulf state has unveiled an unprecedented spending plan to build the stadiums, hotels, bridges and railways needed for the 2022 games, requiring a flood of foreign labourers.

Qatar has been repeatedly criticised over the working conditions of labourers. An August report by Qatar-based rights group NHRC found 70 percent of workers were only paid QR1,100 ($302) a month, while 30 percent of labourers received just QR800 ($219) a month.

A third of the 1,114 workers polled by the group said they never received their wages on time.

Accommodation for about 43 percent of them was on the basis of six beds in a room and 31 percent said they have to share one toilet, the report said.

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
SA 8 years ago

It is a very tricky situation... how does one define labour rights by comparison?

Does a sailor on cruise leaving months on end and sleepin in bunkers are being abused? or does Americans working in remote Oil sites with no family facilities and decent accommodation not treated well? or does Australians working in Ores and Mines in very dangerous conditions does not deserve boycotts?

Laborers coming to gulf countries know about the working condition in this desert cities, they knew temperatures can jump 50 C or accommodations is shared and the salary is basic.

But then there are over 700 millions Indians alone who earns 30$ per month back home. And hence they choose to take jobs that offer 10 times more.

These very people have no problem using iPhones and branded garments which are build in much similar working conditions by laborers in China/Thailand.

2fillsworth 8 years ago

I agree that every worker deserves their rights regardless of their location, however I feel this pursuit is mainly driven by people who have not yet accepted Qatar as a legitamite hosting country.

Where were the calls during the development in South Africa, or during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi?? Why were these areas not questioned or highlighted?

The article also points out the amount of everyday consumer goods that are produced in countries with little or no worker rights, yet they still purchase them.

I beleive the region is improving the focus on worker / labourer rights and will reach acceptable levels by international standards

kingkaiser 8 years ago

Come now - you cant compare the Australians in mines earning $200,000 a year (according to Wall Street Journal, earlier this week) to a guy earning $3,000 a year. Both are barely educated, and working in horrible situations; the difference is that one is being handsomely rewarded for the hardship and risk - the other seems to be exploited.

And you're right, the earnings are better than in India, but giving someone the choice between horrible working conditions or starvation does seem exploitative to me. The employer in this case knows full-well that he's taking advantage of the worker's situation. There should be a balance between human rights and the profit objective.

telcoguy 8 years ago

I quote from the article 'A third of the 1,114 workers polled by the group said they never received their wages on time."
I imagine that they knew also they may be paid late or even never with no legal protection (as it has happened before with unscrupulous contractors)
The Qatar world cup is going to attract lot of attention I think, what will happen when a homosexual couple book a hotel room and go walking on the street?
There are plenty of groups that may use it as a stage. Let see.

Telcoguy 8 years ago

Both countries were criticized at the time and were perceived as risky bets, and in fact India was also heavily criticized during the games. You may have forgotten, but you can always google.
Regarding trade, some people choose to buy "fair trade" products, some others do not care. But claiming that labor organizations around the world are jealous of Qatar getting the cup seems a little bit weird. Can you please explain the connection?
maybe some people in these organizations do not share your views on labor situation here.
In any case Qatar should have known that would be open to this criticism that I think will increase over time, I never understood the decision,

XExpat 8 years ago

If FIFA supports or stand for workers right, then Doha can never be considered as a venue.
A couple of years ago, one of my SriLankan friend working in Doha had a terrible experience, his father expired and he could not reach the funeral in Colombo in time because his qatari sponsor was not in Doha at that time and it seems , the worker requires the sponsor's approval letter to leave Doha for business or leave or vacation.

DubaiWhite 8 years ago

There is absolutely no doubt that FIFA's decision to award the world cup to Qatar was the the most stupid decision they have ever made. The country is too small, the population about the same as Glasgow and the summer climate is completely inappropriate, whilst a winter event would be massively disruptive to the game in Europe in particular. It is wrong however to single our Qatar for workers rights issues, when the conditions are no worse than countless other countries about which nothing is said. Six to a room, sharing one toilet would be five star luxury for much of the world's population, so everything is relative.
FIFA have made a rod for their own back and this campaign is just one of many that will haunt them until the next issue comes along. For example how many soccer fans realise that only the top end five star and a few four star of hotels in Qatar have an alocohol licence?

SA 8 years ago

@kingkaiser.... so you mean money makes all the difference in human rights abuse? so they comparatively they are paid 10 times more then their home country or maybe 1000 times more then say worker in Zimbabwe.

Yes ppl should be treated fairly but my issue is with these protest which only intends to make hosting difficult for developing countries.

Where was all the concerns prior to FIFA? labourers are working in Gulf region for last 40 years. And there are appropriate channel to make countries improve on human rights.

And if the concern is so guiniune why don't the western countries allow Laborers from India (they only want our well brained guys). As an Indian i would be very glad that our low skill population can earn $200,000 :)


Marijke 8 years ago

This brings up a different issue. When you are an employer in a transcient society, and you have mainly expat workers ( which is 100% the case with construction companies) and you pay visa, salary, accomodation, food, health care for all of them, you have to have a system in place that prevents absconding (Of course treating your staff well is number 1) The employee not being able to leave the country without employers consent or without a guarantee must be in the contract and though your friend's experience is a very sad one, people must READ their contract before signing it. I once in Bahrain suprised the HR employees because I was sitting down and read my contract before I put my signature and actually got them to made changes. I think It's so important for a person who plans to move abroad knows their rights and knows where to go in case things go wrong. Which is the respnsibility of the employer/inviting country, but also the employee and authorities in the home country.

Marijke 8 years ago

Exactly, SA, I do believe we are bying a lot of products which are manufactured by child labour, horrible working conditions for workers and very low wages. I guess there is a bit of bias going on about who we want to "tell off" about labour rights. And in my opinion labour protection starts in the home country of the employee where "middle men" are the ones charging poor Indian, Sri Lankan etc. workers who want to go abroad to work and to be able to provide for their families, months worth of salaries for their visa and other costs which often pushes them to sell their lands back home. Labour rights are a world wide issue and since the GCC is in the spot light for other reasons, this is something that will continue to be addressed. And so it should be, but again, some people like to focus on this region and most likely don't even wonder who manufactured the things they wear and use daily.