Labor group: Qatar must boost WCup worker rights

Published: May 31, 2011 15:02 Updated: May 31, 2011 15:02

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The Gulf state of Qatar must do more to improve workers’ rights as it embarks on a massive building boom before hosting soccer’s 2022 World Cup, an international labor group said Tuesday.

But a report by the International Trade Union Confederation said there “is little sign” so far that Qatar’s leaders are willing to change rules to allow trade unions to address other issues that activists claim can leave workers open to exploitation.

“Conditions for migrant workers in the Middle East are unacceptable,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the Vienna-based union confederation. “The World Cup is a time when the eyes of the world will be on Qatar and the other nations in the region.” Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers — mostly from South Asia — work in construction and other projects across the Gulf, but enjoy few rights and are often burdened by debts to labor recruitment agencies back home. Some governments, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have boosted efforts to improve work conditions in recent years.

The union group’s report, however, cited other long-standing complaints such as bans on trade unions, substandard “barrack-like housing” for laborers and sponsorship rules under which workers cannot easily change jobs or resign.

The report expressed concern that Asian workers and others could “fall victim to agencies seeking to make quick money from the World Cup recruitment boom.” The group said it would press FIFA, the sport’s governing body, to ensure that companies and World Cup suppliers are “actually respectful of workers’ rights.”

Qatar — with super wealth from oil and gas — plans tens of billions of dollars in transportation improvements and stadium construction for the tournament. The construction bonanza will add to a growth rate that is already among the fastest in the world. read more

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