Two months ago I wrote about how Qatar could start to improve their battered image in the world. The battering started with the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to them seven years ago, and hasn’t let up.
What will happen to 2022 World Cup may well be ultimately subject to the various legal investigations and processes underway. As far as I’m aware, the USA, France and Switzerland are all looking at aspects of the bidding processes for 2018/2022, with Qatar’s name prominent amongst those that are being investigated.
I have no comment to make on the alleged corruption issues, but I do have plenty to say around the rights of the many thousands of workers who are building their World Cup infrastructure.
In my October column, I said it would be relatively simple for Qatar to get rid of the dreaded kefala system and start to address human and workers’ rights issues.
I don’t know whether they read my humble column – Insh’allah if they do! – but I was absolutely amazed and delighted to read not long afterwards that they appear to have taken steps to do exactly that.
I say ‘appear’ because, of course, there has to be evidence that this action is having a positive impact, adjudicated by the likes of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), both of which remain sceptical about the announcement.
But for others who have also fought the good fight on this issue, such as my mate Sharan Burrow from the International Trade Union Confederation, the Qatar pledge via their deputy Prime Minister is a welcome announcement. In effect, as Sharan writes here, Qatar has agreed that:
- Employment contracts will be lodged with a government authority to prevent contract substitution, ending the practice of workers arriving in the country only to have their contract torn up and replaced with a different job, often on a lower wage.
- Employers will no longer be able to stop their employees from leaving the country.
- A minimum wage will be prescribed as a base rate covering all workers, ending the race-based system of wages.
- Identification papers will be issued directly by the State of Qatar, and workers will no longer rely on their employer to provide their ID card without which workers can be denied medical treatment.
- Workers’ committees will be established in each workplace, with workers electing their own representatives.
- A special disputes resolution committee with a timeframe for dealing with grievances will be a centre piece for ensuring rapid remedy of complaints.
This is all good stuff and real progress. I want to give credit where credit is due and congratulate the Qatar Government for taking this step.
While there are still other issues for the Qatar World Cup to contend with, including the various investigations and the broader issue of its relationships within the Middle East, this matter of workplace reform is one where they have finally shown a willingness to address the issue positively. That’s good for the workers, their families and the countries they hail from, as well as for Qatar and the 2022 World Cup.
As with others, I will continue to watch what’s happening and to ensure that the Qatar Government delivers on their promise.
However, on the basis of what I’ve read and heard about this so far and regardless of Qatar’s motivation for doing it at this time, this policy outcome is a good thing. Well done to all involved.
I would particularly like to mention Sharan Burrow and the ITUC, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Building and Wood Workers International, the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions, Playfair Qatar, HRW, AI, Abes Ouaddou, my colleagues at #NewFIFANow and the many thousands of football fans who have supported this work through energetic campaign activity.
Onwards and upwards.