21 March 2014
FIFA is ‘timewasting’ on exploited workers in Qatar
The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) is deeply disappointed by the outcome of the FIFA Executive Committee that just concluded this afternoon. The FIFA did not address the fundamental issues that are at the crux of the problems in Qatar and merely gave a series of excuses and justification on why FIFA is not responsible – while at the same time asked the “construction companies who are making money to have clear stance” on the workers’ situation.
Migrant building workers who make up nearly 100\% of the work force that will be responsible for the building of stadiums, infrastructure, hotels, and other facilities related to the World Cup have once again been side lined.
“When we met FIFA two days ago, we submitted concrete and doable 11-point agenda of reforms” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI. “Unfortunately it appears that the FIFA Executive Committee has chosen to remain its head in the sand rather than being bold and be on the side of human and trade union rights. Death of more than 500 workers and widespread exploitation is not an urgent matter for them.”
BWI urged FIFA to make its April fact-finding visit multi-stakeholder by inviting trade unions and human rights organisations to join. It also offered to show to FIFA the real situation on the ground by organising meetings with the migrant workers in their labour camps.
On the day prior to the much awaited FIFA Executive Committee, the BWI delegation met with President Sepp Blatter and Dr. Theo Zwanziger who has been assigned to oversee a special committee to address in the words of FIFA officials “appalling and horrendous” conditions of migrant workers in Qatar.
The BWI delegation with representatives of BWI affiliates from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway outlined ways that Qatar could realistically move forward to fulfil its vision “to transform Qatar into an advanced country.
“If Qatar wants to advance its country to provide a high standard of living for all of its people, then it must first address the living and working conditions of migrant workers,” stated Pierre Cuppens, Deputy President of BWI and General Secretary of ACV-BIE. He further reiterated, “The first step would be for Qatar to abolish the slave-like kafala and exit visa system. Bahrain has abolished the kafala system and no exit visas are necessary in Oman, Kuwait, U.A.E. and Bahrain. Why can this not be the case in Qatar?”
In addition, the BWI outlined concrete measures that FIFA should take to fulfil its social responsibility to ensure worker rights for not only workers in Qatar but in future World Cup tournaments as well. The BWI called on FIFA to adopt the principles of the ILO Core Conventions, United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and ensure that this is included in the criteria for all future hosting countries.
“FIFA has enforced strict copyright guidelines and sales of official merchandise through the secretive FIFA law that we understand host countries must adopt,” stated Per Olof Sjoo, President of BWI and President of GS. He added, “Inclusion of workers’ rights and decent work in the FIFA law is something that FIFA can easily do and within the complete control of FIFA.”
BWI also stressed the need for independent labour inspections of all facilities related to the World Cup in Qatar. According to Dietmar Schaefers, Deputy President of BWI and Vice-President of IGBAU Germany, “We asserted in the meeting that independent labour inspections are essential to ensure workers are protected. A commitment to this could have shown that FIFA was serious about this matter. Nothing has changed since October 2013 except for new document on workers’ welfare.”
While the full report to EC is not yet publicly available, FIFA has chosen to make excuses and point out that the Qatari government and companies that are “making money” out of the World Cup should be responsible. Double talks such as “seeing the news, one cannot be just in the surface” and “we are not a trade union thus we are not responsible” just further exposed the hypocrisy and the lack of urgency on the side of FIFA.
Johan Lindholm, President of Bygggnads stressed the need for FIFA to act immediately recounting his experience from the BWI mission that took place last October, “I cannot forget the stories of young men who had big dreams but only to be shattered by the realities of the terrible working conditions of where they are forced to work and the squalors of where they are forced to live. I made a commitment to continue fighting for change”.
BWI will continue its campaign for workers’ rights in Qatar as well as in other major sports events as FIFA remains tell the world its mantra-like excuses - we are not responsible and we cannot interfere on workers issues.
Indeed, a real shame for a non-profit organisation that has 1.3-billion USD income for 2013.
Contacts: For interviews with Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI contact: Genevieve Kalina (English, French, and Spanish) Land: +41 22 827 3786 and Mobile: +41 79 947 2707