2022 World Cup: Qatar says charter will protect workers

By Bill Law
BBC News

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
International labour organisations say conditions remain unsafe for migrant workers in Qatar

The committee responsible for the football World Cup in Qatar says a new "workers' charter" will protect labourers.

Dario Cadavid, Assurance and Integration Senior Manager, Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, said worker safety was of "paramount importance".

However the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said it was "very disappointed".

The ITUC's Sharan Burrow said the charter will not help migrant workers.

Ms Burrow was critical of a process under which, she said, "none of (the) documents have been released to the public or discussed with unions, and workers remain in the dark about their rights".

The charter was announced at a conference of the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) held in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday.

Mr Cadavid told the conference: "We look forward to a long-term partnership with IOSH to ensure a lasting legacy of worker welfare standards in Qatar."

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Sheikh Hamad, Qatar's emir, lifts football's World Cup after the Gulf state was chosen to host the 2022 championship

He added "we are working very hard preparing the groundwork, including developing a comprehensive strategy on workers' safety, health, security and welfare and the workers charter is is only a first step. We are aware of the task that is ahead of us and will work in a sustained and committed manner to succeed".

Qatar and other Gulf states have long been criticised by international labour and human rights organisation for the poor treatment of migrant workers who suffer from low wages, high death rates on construction sites and substandard living conditions.

Most of the workers come from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines.

A new study on human trafficking by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) states that migrant workers in the Middle East are among the most likely group of people to become victims of forced labour.

The report highlighted the Kafala (sponsorship) system where workers are not allowed to end unfair employment contracts or change employers, calling it "inherently problematic".

The ITUC's Sharan Burrow said that what she called loopholes in the Qatari labour law created "conditions of 21st century slavery".

She added: "Reform of Qatari labour law to meet international standards is the only way to give workers in Qatar their rights."

In a statement to the BBC, FIFA - the international football body which runs the World Cup - said that the ITUC, the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and Human Rights Watch were among a number of organisations it was meeting to "ensure healthy, safe and dignified working conditions" are in place when stadium construction begins later this year.

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