Good news from Qatar, but much more to do
This weekend, British trade unionists are taking part in an ITUC delegation to Qatar to investigate the plight of migrant construction workers building the venues for the 2022 World Cup in conditions of near slavery. Appropriately, given the World Cup theme, the delegation will also include two representatives of professional footballers’ unions – from Austria and Denmark (with the support of the UK’s PFA.)
So it may be no coincidence that, yesterday morning, trapped footballer Zahir Belounis was finally allowed to leave Qatar where he had been held in slavery under the notorious Kafala system. This is a major victory for the campaigning work of the ITUC and international footballers’ union FIFPro, as well as – in our own small way, the TUC and PFA. Oh, and Gary Lineker and Arsene Wenger, of course!
It’s fantastic news that Zahir Belounis is free, but there’s so much more to do. FIFA were probably instrumental in securing his exit visa, and they have at last begun to talk seriously with trade unions about the preparations for the 2022 World Cup. Sepp Blatter has at last made clear that he thinks it unacceptable for workers to be exploited just so that the World Cup can happen.
But he hasn’t yet persuaded the Qataris to treat construction workers with respect, provide them with safe working conditions, decent pay and the freedom of movement and association that a free trade union movement would provide. So while we celebrate Zahir’s freedom at last, we are still campaigning to #rerunthevote until workers in Qatar are all free.