Contractors to face scrutiny over Qatar World Cup projects

AFP, NEW DELHI

Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 19

The world’s leading trade union body said on Tuesday it would pressure international construction companies behind World Cup infrastructure in Qatar into respecting worker rights in what they described as a “slave state.”

Sharan Burrow, the secretary-general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said the umbrella group was watching as European, US and Brazilian companies compete for work in the Gulf emirate.

A contract for metro tunneling and construction has already been awarded to Italian building group Impregilo and local Italian unions will be contacting the company, she said.

“It’s a slave state. They are building one of the wealthiest countries in the world on the back of exploitation. It’s unconscionable,” she told reporters in New Delhi.

The majority of migrant workers expected to build the transport and stadium infrastructure for the competition in 2022 will be from India and elsewhere in South Asia. They will likely encounter appalling working conditions and no protection, Burrow said.

Campaigners say Qatar has anti-labor laws which prohibit migrant laborers from unionizing or striking, while employers routinely confiscate passports, fail to pay wages and exert huge control over their subordinates.

The International Labour Organisation estimated in April that there were 600,000 people who have been “tricked and trapped” into forced employment in the Middle East.

World soccer body FIFA says it is consulting with international labor groups on conditions in Qatar, while the desert state has promised reforms to its labor laws to offer greater protection to workers.

The ITUC released a global survey on Tuesday assessing conditions for workers worldwide which revealed the rising impact of joblessness and pessimism about the future.

Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents had been either personally affected by unemployment or had suffered reduced hours in the past two years, or had a family member affected. Only 13 percent said their income had risen faster than the cost of living over this period.

The survey polled 13,000 people in 13 countries including all the major Western powers and emerging nations Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

China was the only country where a majority (52 percent) of people felt that future generations would be better off, while only 18 percent of Japanese felt the same.