Cramped living quarters for migrant workers building facilities for the Qatar World Cup. Photo ITUC/Matilde Gattoni
Qatar seeks to mislead world about ILO role in sham World Cup workers’ charter
Although the ILO used diplomatic language, it issued one of the most astonishing statements ever alongside the European Parliament’s hearing on workers’ rights in the run up to the 2022 World Cup today. Headed “charter took only some ILO recommendations”, the statement was issued to correct the misleading implication given by the Qataris that the ILO had endorsed their updated rules for workers building the stadiums and training grounds for the World Cup in eight years’ time.
The ILO had been consulted over the new “Workers’ Welfare Standards”, and some of its recommendations had been incorporated, but there were key recommendations that were ignored. They said:
“ILO comments, in particular concerning fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, as well as the adoption of a minimum wage or a living wage, are not reflected in the current text.”
The European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee gave critics of the Qatari approach to migrant construction workers – Sharan Burrow of the ITUC, James Lynch of Amnesty, footballer Zahir Belounis, professional footballers’ union leader Jonas Baer-Hoffmann – the opportunity to press FIFA about what it is doing to improve the lot of workers making the World Cup.
ILO Deputy Director General Gilbert Houngbo set out a series of actions that the Qatari Government should take about not only migrant construction workers, but domestic workers too. Labour’s Jim Murphy took the opportunity in print to call for action from FIFA and others, like DFID.
There was consensus that the Qatari World Cup organising committee’s revised charter was a sham, without sufficient enforcement mechanisms, and covering only a small fraction of the 500,000 migrants who will be building a new Qatar over the next few years.
Even FIFA accepted that not enough was being done: senior FIFA official Theo Zwanziger said the conditions faced by workers in Qatar were “unacceptable”. But they stopped short of calling for the ‘kafala’ system that is, effectively, modern slavery to be abolished, and refused to threaten Qatar with being stripped of the World Cup. So FIFA are still in the frame – and unions will continue to press them, as well as the Qatari authorities, to take action.