From the TUC

Qatar: ITUC delegation finds no improvements #rerunthevote

02 Dec 2013, By

An ITUC delegation to Qatar, including two British trade unionists, has just concluded a four-day visit to investigate whether the authorities’ claim to be improving workers’ rights is justified. And, sadly, the answer is that it isn’t, so the ITUC’s #rerunthevote campaign continues. You can join in by sending an email to the FIFA governing body, urging them to use their leverage to insist on respect for workers building the sites for the 2022 World Cup, as well as an end to the notorious kafala system that traps workers like footballers Abdeslam Ouaddou and Zahir Belounis (both thankfully now free) in slavery.

The ITUC delegation was led by General Secretary Sharan Burrow, and as well as Gail Cartmail from Unite (TUC General Council spokesperson on international development) and Bert Schouwenburg (GMB), it included representatives of the international professional footballers’ organisation FIFPro from Austria and Denmark, and other trade unionists from Australia and Nepal, where many migrant construction workers in Qatar come from. The delegation met the authorities (including those arranging the 2022 World Cup) and the construction workers in their camps.

Footballer Zahir Belounis was allowed to leave Qatar last week – suspiciously just ahead of the delegation arriving – after being held in bondage by his employer for two years. The campaign for his release had grown to fever pitch with the involvement of Gary Lineker and Arsene Wenger, who drew the parallels between holding footballers hostage and the dreadful conditions facing migrant construction workers. The ITUC estimates that by the time the 2022 World Cup starts, more than 4000 construction workers will have died building the stadiums, compared with zero fatalities preparing for the London 2012 Olympics. And last week’s deaths at the Sao Paolo 2014 World Cup in Brazil demonstrate that FIFA’s responsibilities don’t just apply to Qatar.

The situation facing migrant workers in Qatar – not just appalling health and safety standards and forced labour, but the lack of freedom to join a trade union and demand their rights, have been raised by the European Parliament and Amnesty International. Speaking after the conclusion of the ITUC visit, Sharan Burrow said:

“What we’ve seen his week can be summarized as how not to design a system for the global workforce on any basis:  human and labour rights; good will and international reputation or; productivity based on loyalty and efficiency. International companies should be on notice about the reputation risk of doing in business in Qatar without respect for workers’ rights,

“FIFA have called for the improvements of core ILO standards and an end to the Kafala system, they will report back in March 2014, we can only hope the Qatar Government will make the right choice.”