The welfare of workers building the country’s milestone sports event continues to improve, with advances in health, safety and general wellbeing.

The lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM has seen an increase in activity, with the Al Janoub stadium opening to the public in May 2019 and the other stadiums all in various stages of completion.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) is the organisation responsible for delivering tournament infrastructure for the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East. They are also responsible for overseeing the many thousands of workers employed on SC projects.

The SC’s Workers’ Welfare Standards (WWS) has outlined the principles to be included in all contracts relating to World Cup projects, and the committee has strictly prohibited contractors from charging recruitment fees. The SC conducts regular audits to ensure workers have not been subject to unethical practices, whether this be late salary, retention of passports or payment of recruitment fees. Any company violating these rules are reported to the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MoADLSA).

SC will be allocating almost QAR19 mn (USD5 mn) for a number of contractors working on SC projects to reimburse workers as part of a ‘Universal Payment’ system. The money is compensation for any illegal recruitment and hardship fees which may have been paid in the past. As many of the contractors hired workers before the introduction of the WWS, the Universal Payment initiative was introduced to remedy this situation.

The potential of the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM to improve workers’ rights was discussed at a high-profile human rights conference in Berlin in September 2019, organised by international trade union Building and Wood Workers International (BWI). The event, ‘Sports Campaigning in the 2020s: Setting Strategies and Identifying Opportunities’, saw SC reiterate their commitment to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the 27,000 workers building the stadiums and tournament infrastructure. 

Speaking at the conference, Mahmoud Qutub, Executive Director of WDD, said: ‘Since 2016 we have worked closely with BWI on enhancing the work we have carried out in protecting our workers. We have made significant progress, but there is still a great deal of work to do. The very nature of the construction industry and its complex supply chain is a challenge – however, we continue to work closely with our contractors to navigate this in order to safeguard our workers.’

The Fourth Annual Workers’ Welfare Progress Report February 2018 – January 2019 by SC outlined key achievements and challenges. One such milestone was 123 contractors and sub-contractors returning recruitment and relocation fees to their workers. Over 31,800 SC and non-SC workers will receive reimbursements worth more than QAR80 mn over the next three years.

The Workers’ Welfare Forum (WWF), the SC’s grievance platform, is now being studied by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Qatar office and MoADLSA, for possible implementation by other entities in Qatar. 

Health and safety has improved at work sites, with the development of a fully functioning cooling work wear range adapted to Qatar’s climate. These suits are an advancement over the 3,500 cooling vests issued in June 2018. SC also established the first electronic medical record system in Qatar, in partnership with the UK’s IT solution provider TPP.

SC Secretary General HE Hassan Al Thawadi, said: ‘I am extremely proud of the progress the SC has made over the past year. Challenges and obstacles still exist but our commitment to progress and improvement is unwavering. Our efforts are now directed at leveraging the progress made within workers’ welfare at the SC to spark action around legacy outcomes across the State of Qatar.’

Author: Sarah Palmer

This feature is an editorial from the ‘Sports’ section in the latest issue of Marhaba – Issue 76, which comes out in December 2019.

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