Dutch union threat­ens FIFA with le­gal ac­tion over Qatar

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

A Dutch la­bor union said yes­ter­day it will launch le­gal ac­tion against FIFA if soccer’s gov­ern­ing body does not step in to halt what it called “mod­ern slav­ery” in the con­struc­tion of venues for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Dutch union FNV, which is tak­ing le­gal ac­tion along with 21-year-old Bangladeshi worker Nadim Shar­i­ful Alam, said it wants “FIFA to ac­cept its re­spon­si­bil­ity and end ex­ploita­tion of work­ers” in con­struc­tion work ahead of the tour­na­ment.

The union is the lat­est or­ga­ni­za­tion to call for ac­tion against poor work­ing con­di­tions for la­bor­ers since Qatar was awarded the host­ing rights.

The gas-rich emi­rate is ex­pected to spend tens of bil­lions of dol­lars be­fore the Novem­ber-De­cem­ber 2022 tour­na­ment kicks off, pre­par­ing eight new and ren­o­vated sta­di­ums and re­lated projects such as trans­port links and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Qatar is re­ly­ing heav­ily on work­ers from south Asia who are tied to the “kafala” sys­tem of spon­sor­ship com­mon in Gulf na­tions, which crit­ics say ex­poses mi­grants to ex­ploita­tion.

Un­der the sys­tem, “work­ers like Nadim are lured to Qatar with en­tic­ing sto­ries and now work as mod­ern slaves for the su­per­rich Qataris,” FNV rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ruud Baars said. The union said that Alam paid nearly 4,000 eu­ros ($4,500) to travel to work in Qatar, where he un­loaded freight ships for 18 months be­fore los­ing his job and be­ing thrown out of the coun­try. He is de­mand­ing 10,000 eu­ros ($11,000) com­pen­sa­tion in a writ that will be filed in a Zurich court if FIFA takes no ac­tion within three weeks.

For­eign­ers ac­count for roughly 90 per­cent of the 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in Qatar, many of them low-paid mi­grant work­ers from South Asia.

Qatari au­thor­i­ties have promised re­forms, and on Monday launched a cam­paign to fa­mil­iar­ize em­ploy­ers, work­ers, em­bassies and other or­ga­ni­za­tions with a new la­bor law set to be im­ple­mented in De­cem­ber.

“This work is vi­tal for rais­ing aware­ness among em­ploy­ers of Qatar’s la­bor laws, and en­sur­ing there are mech­a­nisms in place for safe­guard­ing of em­ploy­ees rights,” Min­is­ter of Ad­min­is­tra­tive De­vel­op­ment, Labour and So­cial Af­fairs Issa bin Saad alJafali al-Nuaimi said in a state­ment.

The govern­ment has al­ready made other changes, in­clud­ing mov­ing some la­bor­ers into im­proved ac­com­mo­da­tions and in­sti­tut­ing a “wage pro­tec­tion sys­tem” to tighten over­sight of salary pay­ments.

FIFA did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Dur­ing a visit to Qatar ear­lier this year, FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino pledged to cre­ate a panel to mon­i­tor con­struc­tion at World Cup sta­di­ums and en­sure de­cent work­ing con­di­tions.

“We take our re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously and are com­mit­ted to play­ing our part,” In­fantino said in a FIFA state­ment pub­lished in April. — AP

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