HRW urges FIFA and Qatari authorities to guarantee wages for migrant workers

The NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) has urged FIFA and the Qatari authorities to ensure that migrant workers who have made the World Cup possible receive their full wages and benefits and are not arrested or deported for participating in protests.

The organization has also called on FIFA and the Qatari authorities to address underlying complaints of wage abuses, including by supporting a redress fund to address “this problem in a comprehensive manner.”

To substantiate its demands, HRW has interviewed 32 migrant workers from India, Kenya and Nepal who have recently participated in strikes over the conditions they received doing their jobs in preparation for the World Cup.

Most of the migrant workers detailed that they had participated in strikes to protest wage theft due to employers’ failure to pay wages on time, a process that sometimes dragged on for months.

Other workers on short-term visas have participated in strikes after companies told them they were being sent home before the end of their two-year work contract.

“The strikes and protests by migrant workers in Qatar are an act of desperation for workers demanding action against wage theft,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Michael Page,

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“With weeks to go before the start of the World Cup, especially as construction work in Qatar comes to a definitive end, Qatari authorities must ensure that workers’ wages and benefits are paid on time and in full instead of penalizing them for asking for what is rightfully theirs,” he asserted.

Workers have explained to the NGO that strikes occur in phases. When companies do not pay them for months, they decide to stay in their accommodation and refuse to report to work. When they later persist because of delays in wage payments, migrant workers protest in the streets, sometimes in front of government buildings or a company’s headquarters, or even block traffic.

Human Rights organizations have reported that the Qatari government has so far deported at least 60 migrant workers.

Asked about these expulsions, the Qatari Ministry of Labor claimed that they were arrested in a strike held on August 14 for “violating Qatar’s public security laws.”

However, other migrant workers have confessed that they had decided not to join the strikes for fear of reprisals from both their employer and the Qatari authorities, something that has nevertheless left them with little recourse to recover unpaid wages or negotiate better accommodation.

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According to HRW, Article 116 of the Qatari Labor Law grants only Qatari nationals the right to form workers’ associations or unions, depriving migrant workers of their right to freedom of association and to form unions.

“While Qatar acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it maintained a number of formal reservations in 2018, including the interpretation of the term ‘trade unions’ in accordance with its national law,” the organization has asserted.

All in all, HRW has reiterated its call on the Qatari authorities and FIFA to ensure that workers receive the wages and benefits owed to them.

“The least FIFA and the Qatari authorities can do is to ensure that workers receive the wages and benefits owed to them as a matter of priority and to establish a redress fund that builds on existing compensation mechanisms, such as the Workers’ Insurance and Support Fund, to address past and current widespread wage abuse,” Pagina said.

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