BRUSSELS: The issue of workers’ rights in Qatar is to be discussed by FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich on Friday in tandem with the controversy over the timing of the 2022 finals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Increasing concern over searing Gulf temperatures had prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to list moving the finals on the agenda; the expectation is that a task force will be commissioned to study the options.
But Blatter has also informed the International Trade Union Confederation that he and his committee will discuss what has been called the ‘slave trade’ system of employment for 1.2m migrant workers in Qatar.
The ITUC has warned up to 4000 workers could die before a ball is kicked at the 2022 finals.
Last week the ITUC – not for the first time – raised its concern in a formal letter to Blatter.
Sharan Burrow, the ITUC’s general secretary, has said that Blatter has pledged in reponse to put the issue of labour rights on the exco agenda.
The organising Qatar 2022 supreme committee has expressed its concern at reports, notably in The Guardian, about the number of deaths among Nepalese construction workers while the Qatari government has begun investigating into the allegations.
However Burrow and the ITUC are not impressed.
He said: “There are already labour inspectors and they have no impact. What is needed are laws that protect workers’ rights to join a union, bargain collectively and refuse unsafe work, and only then can inspectors do their job.
“The laws in Qatar give employers total control over workers so no worker will feel able to speak freely to a labour inspector.”
As for the latest high-visibility twists in the international media, Burrow added: “The spotlight is now fully on Qatar’s abhorrent labour practices. It has taken two years to get this far, and pressure will need to be sustained if lives are to be saved and dignity restored. The billions of dollars at stake will see increasing pressure inside and outside of Qatar to stay silent.”
Last March the ITUC lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labour against six Qatari companies after workers contacted the ITUC to document their cases.
The Labour Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour in Qatar received 6,000 worker complaints in 2012, while the Indian Embassy in Qatar received 1,500 complaints in the first five months of this year.
Visa sponsorship rules known as the kafala system mean that workers cannot change jobs without their employer’s permission and cannot leave the country unless their employer signs an exit permit.
A survey in the the Journal of Arabian Studies found 90pc of workers had their passports held by their employers.
The International Labour Organisation has established a tripartite committee to review evidence and make recommendations to the government of Qatar on how to comply with its international commitments.
Last week, a senior ILO official said: “Many of the abuses that take place which can lead to forced labour are still happening.”