DOHA: Organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have promised to work to resolve issues raised among allegations of regulation violations in a new wave of critical reports about construction workers’ welfare writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
In its latest despatches The Guardian has reported that migrant workers building the first stadium have been paid, by contractor Amana, at below the rate stipulated by the organisers’ own worker welfare rules.
Stadium workers also told the newspaper that their passports had been held by their work manager in another apparent breach of new regulations.
Earlier this week The Guardian claimed that migrant labourers who fitted out luxury offices for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy had not been paid for up to a year and were “living in squalor.”
The timing of the reports will have made interesting reading for world federation after president Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke met the Emir only at the end of last week to discuss progress on workers’ rights.
The Supreme Committee has issued a lengthy statement in response to the criticisms, insisting it “takes allegations of labour regulation violations very seriously” and was “actively looking into the matters raised by the Guardian concerning the contractor Amana.”
The statement insisted: “Since we first bid to host the FIFA World Cup we have worked tirelessly to ensure and improve the welfare of workers on 2022 FIFA World Cup projects and to be a catalyst for sustainable social progress.
“While the complex challenges of a globalized labour market cannot be solved overnight, we are making significant progress building and strengthening the necessary systems for monitoring and enforcement.”
One of the fault lines is that initial construction contracts were negotiated and agreed before the implementation of upgraded and improved workers’ conditions regulations.
The committee conceded: “There are challenges with calculation of overtime pay and hours and we are working with the contractor to rectify any noncompliance.”
On the passports issue, it stated: “We take accusations of passport confiscations very seriously.”
Again the timing issue was raised but “any involuntary confiscation of a passport is expressly forbidden and will be investigated.”
The Supreme Committee also sought to clarify issues about workers in the new offices in the Al Bidda Tower and denied any direct connection with Lee Trading, the now-collapsed overall project contractor.
In a statement released on Monday, Qatar 2022 said it was “heavily dismayed to learn of the behaviour of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers.”
Concerns raised previously by Amnesty International had been relayed to the “relevant authorities” last year. The Supreme Committee insisted it would “continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases.”
Supreme Committee statement in response to the Guardian
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) takes allegations of labour regulation violations very seriously.
The SC is actively looking into the matters raised by the Guardian concerning the contractor Amana. Since we first bid to host the FIFA World Cup we have worked tirelessly to ensure and improve the welfare of workers on 2022 FIFA World Cup projects and to be a catalyst for sustainable social progress.
While the complex challenges of a globalized labour market cannot be solved overnight, we are making significant progress building and strengthening the necessary systems for monitoring and enforcement.
In the first stage of our audits, we began by addressing the most pressing matters that guarantee each worker lives and works in a safe and healthy environment.
The elevated conditions we have achieved for all workers on SC projects, including those of Amana, are a testament to the progress being made.
In addition to improved accommodations, our contractors have implemented numerous welfare improvements, including free catering, laundry services, on-site medical facilities and WiFi access, among others.
In further audits with matters related to employment practices, Amana has worked with us to improve conditions. SC audits have verified that all workers are paid on time by electronic transfer once per month.
However, as has been identified, there are challenges with calculation of overtime pay and hours and we are working with the contractor to rectify any noncompliance.
It is important to note that Amana, as one of our first contractors, was contracted to provide services prior to the introduction of our current standards.
Nonetheless, Amana has worked proactively to upgrade and ensure that its standards meet the SC’s stringent requirements.
We take accusations of passport confiscations very seriously. Since the establishment of the Workers’ Welfare Standards, the SC expressly forbids any contractor to confiscate the passports of its workers.
In the Amana contract, which was under an earlier version of the standards, workers were provided the option of voluntarily, and only with signed consent, handing over their passports to the contractor for safekeeping, and with full access to their passports at any time.
Any involuntary confiscation of a passport, whether at Amana or any other contractor, is expressly forbidden and will be investigated.
The SC welcomes and appreciates third party information which leads to the further improvement of the welfare of all of our workers. We are continuously striving to ensure every worker has the welfare, protection and dignity they deserve.
Response to Guardian Questions on Al Bidda
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to issues raised by The Guardian and Amnesty International regarding the issue of Lee Trading.
As previously stated, Lee Trading was never commissioned by, nor ever worked for the Supreme Committee on any of its projects.
The Supreme Committee is a tenant at the Al Bidda Tower, occupying space on 11 floors.
We are not the tenant of floors 38 and 39. However, we have been granted use of temporary offices on those floors while we await new office space.
The SC is responsible for overall building security via our security contractors. This may explain why a qatar2022.qa email address could have appeared in a building access request to Lee Trading. However, we categorically reject any direct connection with this firm.
The Supreme Committee does, however, take very seriously the matter of worker welfare in Qatar.
We were heavily dismayed to learn of the behavior of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers. When Amnesty International initially raised these issues, we immediately relayed these concerns to the relevant authorities.
We understand that the majority of cases have already been settled with employees either repatriated home or, if they chose to remain in Qatar, work for other employers.
We strongly disapprove of the behavior of Lee Trading and its treatment of workers and will continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases.
# # # # # #