Qatar promises better welfare for World Cup workers

(Reuters) – Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizers have said they will penalize contractors who violate the welfare of constructionworkers after the Gulf country was widely criticized over its labor rights record.

But the measures, which included detailed standards unveiled by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, did not deal with the sponsorship system for migrant workers that a U.N. official said in November was a source of labor abuse.

Pressure on Qatar increased after a report in the UK newspaper The Guardian in September which found that dozens of Nepali workers had died during the summer in Qatar and that laborers were not given enough food and water.

Officials from Qatar and Nepal denied the report.

Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who have also criticized the treatment of migrant laborers in Qatar, gave Tuesday’s announcement a lukewarm reception.

Faced with the challenge of completing big construction and infrastructure projects before the World Cup, Qatar has an increasing number of its estimated 1.8 million foreigners working on projects related to soccer’s showcase event.

The Workers’ Welfare Standards states that all contractors and sub-contractors engaged in the delivery of its projects must comply with principles set out in the charter and relevant Qatari laws.

The new commitments, laid down in a 50-page document on Tuesday, set out standards on wages and workers’ accommodation and include tougher inspections.

“The committee reserves the right to penalize contractors who are non-compliant or, in extreme cases, terminate its contract with a company that is continually in breach of them,” the World Cup organizing committee said in a statement.

“Progress reports based on the audits are to be made public in order to track progress,” it said.

The Supreme Committee said it had worked closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the charter.

However, the ILO said the Committee had only taken a few of their recommendations but disregarded others.

“Comments, in particular concerning fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, as well as the adoption of a minimum wage or a living wage, are not reflected in the current text,” the ILO said in a statement later on Tuesday.


Many sponsors, often labor supply firms or wealthy Qataris who provide workers to businesses for profit, confiscate the passports of guest workers for the duration of their contracts.

There was no mention of the kafala, or sponsorship system, in the committee’s statement and it is still unclear if the government is working to abolish the system.

The committee said the labor ministry had also increased the number of trained labor inspectors by 30 percent over the past six months to monitor contractors’ compliance.

Qatar had been given two weeks in late January to provide a report to soccer’s world governing body FIFA on how it has improved conditions for laborers.

The report will be presented by FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger to a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.