ILO Slams Qatar Employment Rights; 900 Workers Dead; Conditions Described as “Hellholes”

Qatar, the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been told it must overhaul its employment laws as they fly in the face trade union rights. The  mounting pressure on Qatar comes from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO).

Their freedom of association committee of the ILO has urged Qatar to remove restrictions on forming unions and taking strike action and protecting workers against discrimination.

“The committee requests the government to initiate without delay a labour reform, and expects that this process will include the full participation of the social partners,” it said in a report.

Qatar’s treatment of workers is now in the spotlight due to its infrastructure-building programme as it prepares to host football’s showcase in 2022.

The committee underlined that according to the Gulf emirate’s own figures, migrant workers account for 93% of the country’s labour force.

Most of them are from South Asia, and are brought in under the “kafala” visa-sponsorship system, which ties them to their employers.

“The committee urges the government to eliminate any restrictions placed on the freedom of association rights of migrant workers. The right of workers, without distinction whatsoever, to establish and join organizations implies that anyone legally residing in the country benefits from trade union rights without any distinction based on nationality,” says the ILO.

But it also questioned rules governing union rights for Qataris.

The committee had scrutinised Qatar’s record during a closed session last month after receiving a complaint from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Unions worldwide say the migrant workers building multi-billion-dollar infrastructure, both for the World Cup and in general, face harsh living and working conditions in energy-rich Qatar.

Also human rights campaigners Amnesty International have said such workers are treated like “animals,” with hundreds perishing on the emirate’s construction sites.

The ITUC has warned that at current rates, as many as 4,000 might die by the time the tournament kicks off in eight years’ time.

The ILO committee said that the emirate had defended its rules and had insisted that the ITUC complaint was “malicious and seeks to undermine the reputation of the state as it prepares to host the World Cup”.

Meanwhile the scandal of how workers are being treated in this Middle East emirate is being exposed as each week goes by by the media and trade unions.

The latest comes from the Daily Record in Scotland which describers working conditions on sites being built for the World Cup as ‘hellholes’.

The Smithsonian Institute in the USA says that already 900 workers have been killed on building sites in the emirate.

Meanwhile FIFA, who controversially award the World Cup finals to the emirate says although it has “some responsibility” it is powerless to do anything – but FIFA is now also becoming mired in allegations of corruption and graft in awarding the World Cup to Qatar.

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