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Tue 4 Mar 2014 11:49 AM

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World Cup workers need 6sqm of space, says Qatar welfare chief

Chairwoman of the Workers’ Welfare Committee said contractors were also obligated to provide three free meals a day

World Cup workers need 6sqm of space, says Qatar welfare chief
(Getty Images - Photo for illustrative purpose only)

The head of Qatar’s World Cup workers welfare committee has sought to reassure people about accommodation standards by saying “all that matters” is that each worker has 6 square metres of space in their shared room.

Farah Al Muftah, chairwoman of the Workers’ Welfare Committee (WWC), which is part of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said accommodation standards were “very detailed” with workers also given three catered meals a day, The Peninsula Qatar newspaper reported.

“We want to make sure there is enough water pressure, hot water for showers and water coolers. For food, we make sure there’s a rotation of catering because we don’t allow cooking in the accommodation for health and safety reasons,” she said during an on-site visit to accommodation for workers building the Wakrah Stadium.

The building houses 79 workers for employees of Amana Qatar Contracting Company and is part of a compound owned by Redco.

“We did not pick this accommodation,” Al Muftah said. “This is the accommodation chosen by the contractor. We are not forcing the contractors to have a certain design or look for their accommodation. We are making sure that each worker has 6sqm space so that the rooms are not overcrowded.”

She reportedly said it did not matter whether there were three or four workers per room, but that each worker had 6sqm space in the room.

Al Muftah said contractors were obligated to provide three free meals a day to the workers.

“That way when the workers come home after their shift they don’t have to cook, they’re already tired,” she was quoted as saying. “All they have to do is rest because they have work the next day.”

Last month Qatar was forced to establish a Workers' Welfare Standards document in response to an outcry over the treatment of construction workers building World Cup facilities, sets out regulations "throughout the entire chain of contracting, from recruitment to repatriation".

The document includes greater scrutiny of worker payments, comprehensive specifications for worker accommodation, as well as more labour inspectors to support the new welfare standards all overseen by a Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.

However, the standards were dismissed as a sham by welfare and trade union groups, which claimed they fell short of properly protecting migrants’ rights.

Amnesty International's researcher on migrants’ rights in the Gulf, James Lynch, said the standards represented a positive - if partial - effort to prevent some of the worst abuses from taking place on World Cup projects.

However, they only addressed the concerns of a relatively small proportion of migrant workers in Qatar - those involved in the construction of stadiums and training grounds – and did not apply to thousands of other migrant workers building other World Cup infrastructure such as roads, hotels and railways.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the charter merely reinforced the discredited kafala system, which tied workers to their employers and prevented them from leaving the country or changing jobs without permission.

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