Soccer

2022 World Cup body publishes charter to protect workers

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The Canadian Press
2/11/2014 10:03:53 AM
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Qatar sought to allay widespread concerns about conditions for migrant workers on World Cup building projects by detailing on Tuesday how their rights must be protected by contractors.

Rights group Amnesty International called the charter a "positive, if partial" step, but the International Trade Union Confederation called it a "sham," and complained that 2022 World Cup leaders have not demanded changes in Qatar's labour laws despite mounting criticism from rights groups.

Qatari organizers released the charter after being ordered by FIFA to explain by this week how working and living conditions for workers building the venues for the Middle East's first World Cup are improving. The 50-page document fleshes out the basic welfare obligations that were published last year.

Within it are the requirements for employment contracts, payment, medical care and living conditions, including the meals and bedrooms that must be provided. Employers must also allow workers to retain their passports and cover the cost of their costs to return home at the end of their contract.

"In our experience enforcement (of the standards) is almost always the stumbling block," Amnesty researcher James Lynch said in a statement.

Lynch stressed that only a "relatively small proportion" of workers are covered by the charter. Only companies building World Cup venues must abide by it, rather than those with government contracts for the wider infrastructure projects that are required to handle an influx of players, fans and media.

Just 38 construction workers are currently employed by World Cup organizers, building the Al Wakrah Stadium south of the capital Doha. The labour force will rapidly rise as a dozen stadiums and training camps for the 32 competing teams are built from scratch or renovated.

The International Trade Union Confederation is troubled by the charter's failure to address the sweltering summer working conditions when temperatures can hit 50 degrees (120F).

"It promises health and safety but provides no credible enforcement," ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said. "It promises employment standards but gives migrant workers no rights to collectively bargain or join a trade union. It promises equality but does not provide a guarantee of a minimum wage."

The ITUC is urging the Qatari government to abolish the "kafala" employment system, which stops workers from leaving the country without written permission from employers.

FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger, who is working with the ITUC to resolve concerns about Qatar, will face questioning on their progress at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.

Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the World Cup organizing committee, insisted that the tournament will be a catalyst for change in Qatar.

"(It) will leave a legacy of enhanced, sustainable and meaningful progress in regards to worker welfare across the country," Al Thawadi said.

World Cup Stadium (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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