ALMOST 200 Nepalese men died last year working on construction projects in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) says up to 4,000 could die by 2022 if current laws persist.
After the international outcry at the appalling way that the workers were treated, organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have drawn up a ‘Workers’ Charter’.
The ITUC said in a statement: ‘Qatar had until 12 February to inform football’s world governing body, Fifa, how it would reform working practices.
‘The new 50-page charter has been developed in conjunction with the International Labour Organisation.
‘As well as 185 deaths last year, it is believed a significant number of workers in Qatar suffered injuries as a result of unsafe working practices.
‘There have also been complaints about the standard of accommodation many workers live in.
‘Many of the migrant workers in Qatar come from South Asia.
‘Trade unions and human rights groups have also criticised Qatar’s “kefala” employment system that ties migrant workers to their sponsor companies and the exit visa requirements that prevent workers from leaving without the permission of employers.
‘The new document, entitled “Workers’ Welfare Standards”, details the measures that Qatar’s World Cup Supreme Committee plan to enact when dealing with contractors and subcontractors over key World Cup stadium and infrastructure projects.
‘Specifically, the charter states Qatar 2022 will act to ensure the following measures are put in place:
‘• Health and Safety – foster and actively encourage a world-class health and safety culture
‘• Employment Standards – comply with the Supreme Committee’s required employment standards and all relevant Qatari laws
‘• Equality – treat all workers equally and fairly, irrespective of their origin, nationality, ethnicity, gender or religion
‘•Dignity – ensure that workers’ dignity is protected and preserved throughout their employment and repatriation
‘• Unlawful Practices – prohibit child labour, forced labour, and human trafficking practices.
‘• Working and Living Conditions – create and maintain safe and healthy working and living conditions
‘• Wages – ensure that wages are paid to workers on time
‘• Grievances – prohibit retaliation against workers who exercise any rights deriving from the Supreme Committee’s required employment standards or relevant Qatari laws.
‘• Access to Information – provide access to accurate information in the appropriate language regarding workers’ rights deriving from the Supreme Committee’s required employment standards or relevant Qatari laws
‘• Training – provide workers with training on skills necessary to carry out their tasks, including areas related to health and safety.’
Hassan Al-Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar’s supreme committee for the World Cup, has insisted the tournament would not be built ‘on the blood of innocents’.
Zahir Belounis, the French Algerian striker who was unable to leave Qatar after a dispute with his club, is due to address the European Parliament on Friday about his experience.
A senior member of Fifa’s executive committee, Theo Zwanziger, is also expected to deliver an update on Qatar’s planned reforms at the hearing in Brussels.
After clarifying in October that Qatar would still host the World Cup, Fifa president Sepp Blatter promised to address the issue of workers’ rights and visited the Emir of Qatar to discuss the matter.
The supreme committee said its principles will be ‘robustly and effectively monitored and enforced for the benefit of all workers’.
The charter will also force employers to:
• Install a telephone hotline for workers to raise grievances and report concerns.
• Grant workers a minimum of three weeks’ paid annual holiday based on a 48 hour week that cannot exceed eight hours per day.
• Guarantee workers a rest day or compensate them; and create welfare officer posts as well as a forum for grievances to be resolved.
Qatar is reported to be spending more than $200bn (£121bn) on a series of infrastructure projects, and says the World Cup is a catalyst for a nationwide building project.
Meanwhile, the International Trade Union Confederation has deplored the denial of bail once again for the 21 Cambodian workers who remain in prison.
An appeal was immediately filed with the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, however, the investigative judge will set a trial date, which could be weeks but perhaps months from now.
Some of the jailed workers recently started a hunger strike to protest their detention.
‘Trade unions around the world have sent a clear message to the government that these workers must be released.
‘We are deeply disappointed that the government continues to detain these workers for their participation in the strikes and protests that took place in January this year.
‘We remain particularly concerned for Vorn Pao, the president of IDEA, who remains in jail despite serious health concerns.
‘We fully expect the government to release the workers and drop the charges,’ explained Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.
The ITUC undertook a high-level mission to Cambodia in January to call for the release of the jailed workers, for an independent investigation into the killing and wounding of workers in January, for all parties to respect freedom of association, and for the government to increase the minimum wage from the unsustainable $100 per month as soon as possible.
The ITUC, together with IndustriALL and UNI, and with international and Cambodian NGOs, will continue to work to until these goals are reached.