Global pressure builds on Qatar World Cup


Qatar’s World Cup preparations could be thrown into chaos with an UN inquiry into its treatment of workers constructing the infrastructure for the 2022 event.

International unions have issued a formal complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), presenting evidence that Qatar is breaching freedom of association by refusing to recognise core labour rights of migrant workers.

The complaint highlights the link between the high number of workplace fatalities and the Qatari government’s refusal to allow migrant workers to from and join unions.

If the complaint is upheld, international pressure on the regime will intensify. Importantly, the complaint also provides momentum for a growing Equal Times campaign to deliver workplace rights for the one million plus guest-workers from developing nations such as Nepal, India and the Philippines who are being recruited to build the Cup facilities.

An Equal Times special investigation has revealed migrant workers are forced back to their home countries with unpaid wages and no rights to recover them (link).

There are high levels of workplace accidents, according to a recent report “Building a Better World Cup” from Human Rights Watch and to testimony from workers the ITUC is gathering.

Sending countries media also report of deaths in oppressive off-site labour camps from heat-related conditions.

Qatar joined the ILO in 1972 but hasn’t ratified yet some fundamental conventions, including the ones on freedom of association and on the right to collective bargaining.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow says the complaint is a significant move against the Qatari authorities who have been resisting invitations to open dialogue on developing labour laws that meet international obligations.

The complaint has been lodged jointly between the ITUC and the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI).

“We are taking this action to protect the rights of migrant workers who make up 94 per cent of the Qatari workforce but have no legal rights, say the unions.

“If things continue as is, more people will die building the World Cup facilities than players will take the field – that’s unacceptable.

“An event like the World Cup should be an opportunity for a wealthy nation like Qatar to modernise its social framework – and we will be putting all pressure we can to ensure that workers rights are improved as a result of the event.”

The ITUC points to seven breaches of international labour law including:

  • restrictions on the right to form and join a union
  • absence of protections for union activity
  • no right to strike
  • no collective bargaining rights
  • and limits on political activity by Qatari unions

“This is not a step we are taking lightly,” Ms Burrow says. “But we are talking about nearly 1.2 million workers leaving their families to build facilities that will be the focus of a global celebration of cooperation in 2022.

National trade unions are being asked to inform their members of the complaint and to call on their governments to reconsider their relationship with Qatar given its flagrant violations of international law.

To join the international campaign: ‘No Workers Rights, No World Cup’ click here:


Watch Nepalese migrant workers tell Equal Times about their working conditions in Qatar