Rights group says World Cup stadium workers’ money was ‘stolen and lives destroyed’

Rights group says World Cup stadium workers’ money was ‘stolen and lives destroyed’

Migrant workers who built Qatar’s World Cup stadiums have suffered “persistent and widespread violations of workers’ rights,” which include discrimination on the basis of nationality, illegal hiring practices and, in some cases, unpaid wages, according to allegations in a new State Department report. Equidem human rights group.

While the report also documents a number of good practice cases, including “appropriate channels for reporting concerns about working conditions,” good access to healthcare, sick safety measures and decent living conditions, Equidem’s findings concluded that Qatar was a “hostile environment” for stadium workers. .

She claims that many workers interviewed for her report faced severe exploitation and were forced to work in a culture of fear and retaliation, “which persists through sexual discrimination and violence in the workplace, including physical, verbal and mental abuse.”

Equidem also claims that companies involved in building stadiums have “actively evaded inspections,” citing a Nepalese worker working at the Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final, who told researchers that the workers had been sent back to their camps ahead of a visit from FIFA.

The workers began to go into hiding for a chance to file a complaint with the FIFA group. Then the company started checking if anyone was still on the site. “If anyone is caught in hiding, they will either be sent home or their salary will be deducted,” he said in the report.

Non-payment of wages, non-payment of overtime or end-of-service benefits and less than promised wages were also reported. “I don’t get paid for overtime, and I work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week,” a Bangladeshi worker who works in a number of stadiums told researchers.

In 2014, the World Cup Local Organizing Committee established a set of “Worker Welfare Standards” to protect workers in its projects, including improvements to worker accommodation, complaints mechanisms, and a scheme to compensate workers’ recruitment fees. About £20 million has been paid off so far.

In recent years, the Qatari authorities have also introduced a number of labor reforms, chief among them introducing a minimum wage and abolishing the sponsorship system.

However, the Equidem report notes that there are significant shortcomings in implementing these measures.

“The fact that such widespread labor abuses persist in workplaces that are largely regulated by Qatar, FIFA and their partners, suggests that the reforms undertaken over the past five years have served as a cover for powerful companies seeking to exploit migrant workers with impunity. of punishment.” said the report.

The report called on FIFA to establish a compensation fund for workers who suffered during the construction of stadiums.

We estimate that thousands of workers are entitled to compensation for illegal recruitment fees, unpaid wages, and other damages. “Qatar, FIFA and their partners will earn billions from this tournament, but the workers who built the stadiums have had their money stolen and their lives destroyed,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. “FIFA can no longer turn a blind eye and must immediately set up a compensation fund.”

In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said the measures taken to protect the health and well-being of World Cup workers, which include regular independent inspections, on-site occupational health and safety measures, comprehensive medical examinations and projects to address health and Covid-19, have been an important priority.

“The strength of this program has been repeatedly recognized by experts and trade unions over the years, reaching the highest international standards in terms of health and safety. We are in contact with our Qatari counterparts to assess the information contained in the Equidem report,” FIFA said.

The Qatar Supreme Committee, which organizes the tournament, did not respond to a request for comment.

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