All eyes on Qatar
Trade union delegation concludes inspection of labour camps and describes the situation as “unacceptable”.
October 14, 2013 6:13 by Muhammad Aldalou
Trade union leaders from 58 countries, who met in Brussels for the annual general council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) last Thursday, said that they are putting companies on notice that fail to address the abuses of workers’ rights in Qatar.
Sharon Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, says the abuse of workers in Qatar – where, on average, one worker dies every day – is a high priority for the governing body.
She previously said that FIFA must take responsibility and send a very strong and clear message to Qatar that it will not allow the World Cup to be “delivered on the back of a system of modern slavery”.
Qatar has been under enormous pressure to end the alleged exploitation of migrant workers, particularly as the Gulf state embarks on a multi-billion dollar construction programme in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.
The ITUC estimates that, if no action is taken, 4,000 workers will die in Qatar before the start of the World Cup.
Burrow tells Kippreport that the labour ministry in Qatar is in denial and will not take responsibility for the ongoing mistreatment of workers, adding that legal and political solutions are easily available to the government.
“Qatar’s denial that its Kafala system is one of forced labour or slavery demonstrates the arrogance of a very wealthy nation, which thinks it can buy reputation, rather than actually adhere to the civilised norms of international law,” she says.
Last week, a delegation from global union federation Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) concluded a four-day investigation of work sites and labour camps in Qatar.
Ambet Yuson, general secretary of BWI, says the mission “found disturbing evidence of wrong practises and gathered testimonies about the violations of internationally accepted labour standards”, adding that the situation was not acceptable.
James Lynch, Amnesty International’s researcher on migrant workers in the Gulf region, has spent five non-consecutive weeks investigating the living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar in the past year.
He tells Kippreport that a detailed report will be released in November.
Qatari officials denied allegations and media claims, which were exposed by The Guardian newspaper. National Human Rights Committee’s chairman recently decided to appoint international law firm DLA Piper to look into the recent claims.
The ministry has also announced plans to double the number of labour inspectors in the country to 150, a promise that Burrow has described as “weak and disappointing”.