Global Unions Voice Concerns Over Harsh Qatari Labor Conditions

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[Picture: Foreign workers wait for their bus at a construction site in Doha, Qatar (Reuters / Fadi Al-Assaad)]

Controversy over conditions for workers in Qatar involved in the construction of World Cup-related infrastructure, as well as for flight attendants of Qatar Airways, the 2022 tournament’s likely official carrier, has moved center stage as international trade unions protest world football body FIFA.

International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) president Paddy Crumlin questioned the behavior of Qatar Airways after reports that female employees must inform the company if they become pregnant, which may result in the termination of their employment.

“The fact is that these companies are making a fortune from the efforts of hardworking staff who, undefended, can be discharged and deported on a whim,” Crumlin said.

Reports also suggested that female employees are required to gain permission from the airline to get married or change their marital status as part of their contract of employment.

Crumlin also reprimanded Qatar for their abuses against workers, who are involved in the construction of the 2022 World Cup.

“Global unions will also be calling on FIFA to send a clear message to Qatar that we will not sit back and tolerate this form of modern slavery,” said Crumlin.

In a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said the global trade union movement will press for a dramatic improvement in conditions for construction workers in Qatar.

“People should not have to pay with their lives for the World Cup to be a sporting and commercial success," Burrow said.

"1.2 million migrant workers in Qatar are forced to work in extremely high temperatures. Several hundred migrant construction workers die each year in Qatar, working in intolerable conditions. The lack of protection and rights causes an average of at least one death every day."

According to the ITUC, a record 32 Nepalese migrant workers died in the searing heat of Qatar in July alone.

"Qatar has said that between 500,000 and 1 million additional workers will be required for world cup infrastructure - this is a workforce increase of more than 30% and if there is no reform, we would expect a similar percentage increase in fatalities." Burrow added.