DOHA:Whatever other issues may be targeted by critics of Qatar, the Supreme Committee responsible for specific 2022 preparations has reported a significant stepping-up of standards of working conditions for workers writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Qatar came in for heavy criticism abroad last autumn over both the number of deaths of immigrant workers and also over the kafala tied-contract system.

A new report has been published just a day before a FIFA deadline for a report on working conditions which will be used by world federation FIFA to prepare for a hearing into the issue on Thursday at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says it is starting to see tangible progress on the ground towards delivery of the first five proposed venues. Early works have commenced on Al Wakrah Stadium, and four other stadia will be in different phases of construction throughout the year.

A formal declaration of ‘Workers’ Welfare Standards’ has been incorporated in all of its contracts.

The new, more tightly-drawn name of the organising Supreme Committee indicates a defensive attempt to differentiate – if necessary – specific World Cup work from other construction projects in the Gulf state.

Hassan Al Thawadi,  secretary-general of the SCDL said: “These standards—which are aligned with Qatari Labour Law and international best practice—set clear guidelines that protect the rights of workers throughout the entire chain of contracting, from recruitment to repatriation.

‘Meaningful progress’

“We have always believed that Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup would be a catalyst to accelerate positive initiatives already being undertaken by Qatar, which will leave a legacy of enhanced, sustainable and meaningful progress in regards to worker welfare across the country. We already see this progress taking place across Qatar on a daily basis, and will continue to work hard to make our vision become the ever-present reality on the ground.”

The SCDL engaged the International Labour Organisation to look at the entire process from recruitment to living and working conditions upon arrival and incorporate all proposals into its planning ahead of any major stadium construction work.

The report says that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in the past six months, has increased the number of labour inspectors by 30pc and conducted 11,500 spot checks in the past three months.

Labour Minister Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al Khulaifi said: “Qatar is a young, developing nation experiencing a period of economic growth unprecedented in history, anywhere in the world.

“We cannot achieve these plans without the help of migrant workers. We applaud the work of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and other major bodies like the Qatar Foundation, in specifying high standards of workers’ conditions on their construction projects.

“[The Ministry] will continue to support in enforcing these standards, and Qatar’s existing labour laws, and to work with other government bodies in Qatar in holding accountable employers who fail to uphold these laws.”