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Qatar sets labor standards for welfare of World Cup workers
Agence France Presse
File - Migrant labourers work on a construction site on October 3, 2013 in Doha, Qatar. (AFP/Karim Jaafar)
File - Migrant labourers work on a construction site on October 3, 2013 in Doha, Qatar. (AFP/Karim Jaafar)
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DOHA: The committee managing preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup said Tuesday it would penalize contractors who violated the welfare of its construction workers after the Gulf country came under heavy pressure to reform its workplace practices.

But the measures, which include standards unveiled by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, do not deal with the sponsorship system for migrant workers that a U.N. official called a labor abuse source in November.

Pressure on Qatar increased after a report in the U.K. 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.

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 football’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 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 organizing committee said in a statement.

The Supreme Committee said it had worked closely with the International Labor Organization on the charter, which included more detailed measures on workers’ wages and accommodation compared to a guideline charter that was issued by the committee last year.

To ensure the system was being followed, the committee said progress reports would be made public.

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

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 football’s world governing body FIFA on how it has improved conditions for laborers.

FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger will present the report to a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels this Thursday.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has described the labor rights situation in Qatar as unacceptable.

The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation said the charter fell short of providing workers with the rights they deserve.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 12, 2014, on page 6.
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Story Summary
The committee managing preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup said Tuesday it would penalize contractors who violated the welfare of its construction workers after the Gulf country came under heavy pressure to reform its workplace practices.

Pressure on Qatar increased after a report in the U.K. 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.

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.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has described the labor rights situation in Qatar as unacceptable.
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