MOSCOW: Human Rights Watch, having excoriated FIFA over workers conditions in Qatar, has turned its critical focus on 2018 World Cup host Russia three days head of the opening of the Confederations Cup on Saturday.
Jane Buchanan, HRW’s associate director for Europe and central Asia, said: “FIFA’s promise to make human rights a centrepiece of its global operations has been put to the test in Russia, and FIFA is coming up short.
“Construction workers on World Cup stadiums face exploitation and abuse, and FIFA has not yet shown that it can effectively monitor, prevent, and remedy these issues.”
FIFA, in response, has issued a lengthy, detailed, statement about the monitoring work undertaken including “58 inspections [covering] 75pc of the workforce employed on the construction sites at the time of the visits.” The latest inspections showed “that the companies have rectified around 80pc of the issues found in previous visits.”
The 34-page HRW report “Red Card: Exploitation of Construction Workers on World Cup Sites in Russia,” documents how workers on six World Cup stadium construction sites faced unpaid wages either in full or part, several months’ delays in payment of wages, work in temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Celsius without sufficient protections, and employers’ failure to provide work contracts required for legal employment.
HRW consultant Semyon Simonov was detained by Russian police and security forces while undertaking an investigation into the exploitation of stadium construction workers.
Those interviewed by HRW included Russian as well as foreign workers from central Asian countries, Belarus, and Ukraine. At least 17 workers have died on World Cup stadium sites, according to the Building and Wood Workers’ International global union.
Strikes over pay
Workers on several stadia have organised strikes repeatedly to protest at the non-payment of wages and other labour abuses. World federation FIFA has acknowledged the abusive use of North Korean workers in St Petersburg. FIFA has said the workers are no longer employed in St Petersburg.
Since 2015, FIFA has pledged to improve human rights protections in conjunction with hosting of World Cup events.
HRW said: “Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business entities, including FIFA, have responsibilities to respect human rights, avoid complicity in abuses, and ensure that any abuses that occur despite these efforts are adequately remedied.
“The Guiding Principles also call on private enterprises to ensure transparency as part of a credible response to human rights concerns.”
Buchanan added: ““FIFA and the Russian government took a notable step in organising labor monitoring on World Cup stadiums, but to be credible, FIFA needs to make public detailed information about its inspections, what inspectors have found, and the actual results, if any, for workers.
“There could not be a better time for FIFA to move away from the secrecy that has plagued its operations and to show it can achieve meaningful protections for workers, and be transparent and accountable.”