174230_Migrant construction workers in Doha, March 2013

FIFA needs to get tough with the organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, says the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), as it publishes a report exposing the squalid conditions in which many of the tournament’s construction workers are living.

The report – The Case Against Qatar – shows, says the ITUC, just how far Qatar is prepared to go to deny workers their rights. It hopes that the shocking treatment of migrant workers constructing stadiums for the football tournament, detailed in the report, will be enough to convince FIFA that it can no longer take the assurances of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Legacy and Development at face value.

The FIFA Executive Committee – which is meeting in Zurich on Thursday – is meant to be looking into working conditions in Qatar after the ITUC estimated that as many as 4,000 workers could die before a single ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup.

During a recent site visit to Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar, the ITUC found World Cup workers from India, Nepal and Thailand living in squalor with mattresses on the floor in makeshift rooms underneath the stadium seats.

The Case Against Qatar sets out the working conditions in which many of the migrant World Cup workers are living, including being forced to use salt water for cooking and washing, and employers who demand deposits of US$275 before workers are allowed to leave to go home to see their families.

The ITUC says that FIFA has the power to put conditions on the 2022 World Cup organisers, changes which could make a real difference to the lives of thousands of migrant workers. The ITUC has called on both FIFA and the Qatar authorities to:

  • end the kafala system (the sponsorship system which means that migrant workers are effectively owned by their employers and need an exit permit from them before they can leave the country)
  • allow workers in the country to join unions and be given a collective voice through freedom of association, and
  • employ ethical recruitment companies and pay World Cup workers decent rates of pay.

Commenting on the ITUC report TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working conditions are so bad in Qatar that on average one construction worker is dying out there every day. FIFA should no longer be listening to the assurances of the authorities that all is well with the World Cup workforce in Qatar. Its executives need to look at the evidence in the ITUC report and they will see that ill-treatment and squalor is widespread.

“FIFA has the power to make Qatar clean up its act and do so quickly. If the organisers of the 2022 World Cup show no sign of acting to improve the lot of its thousands of migrant workers, then FIFA must consider a re-run of the vote and moving the tournament elsewhere in the world.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “With more than ten men to a room, dangerous and unsanitary cooking facilities and no personal space, this is an unacceptable way to treat workers. Site inspectors said that they had signed off a successful inspection but this clearly wasn’t the case and shows a blatant disregard for those working on the stadium.

“Qatar must change. FIFA can make a difference by abolishing the kafala system and respecting international rights as a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022.”