Several trade unions are gearing up for a protest against Qatar as FIFA delegates gather for the opening of the world football governing body’s annual congress in Mauritius tomorrow, May 31.
The meeting, which includes delegates of football associations across the globe, is regarded as FIFA’s “parliament,” and is where the body makes decisions relating to its governance.
Joining the trade unions in the push to shore up workers’ rights in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup is a prominent footballer who used to play for Qatar.
Speaking in a video interview with the International Trade Union Confederation, French-born Moroccan Abdessalam Ouadoo, who left Qatar last November after playing for Lekhwiya, said:
“I am going to open the eyes of the players in the French and European leagues. You need to know that even if you sign for three or four years, you have no guarantee of lasting until the end. They will want to break your contract with no respect for the terms.”
Speaking recently to news media, Ouadoo said that Lekhwiya owes him five months worth of salary. Following complaints of ill treatment and being traded unwillingly to another club, he eventually left Qatar.
Another pro athlete, 33-year-old French/Algerian striker Zahir Belounis, said he has not been paid for almost two years by Al Jaish SC, and is banned from leaving Qatar over a contract dispute.
Friday’s rally will aim to raise awareness about the footballers’ cases and labor violations in Qatar. It will be hosted by the ITUC, which has been calling on FIFA to revoke Qatar’s World Cup rights. They will be joined by several local unions, including the Mauritius Labour Congress (MLC) and Mauritius Trade Union Congress (MTUC).
The groups have also sent a letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, saying:
Sadly, FIFA awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup has done nothing to secure fair play and fair working conditions. Workers in Qatar face abuses of their human and trade union rights on a daily basis…
The average construction worker in Qatar toils for up to 15 hours, 6 days a week for just $8 a day. Up to a million extra workers will need to be recruited to build the stadiums and other facilities needed for the World Cup, yet there are no laws or grievance procedures to protect them.
Meanwhile, Qatar has pointed to the adoption of workers’ charters by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee and Qatar Foundation as a sign that it is working to improve its labor record. Both charters, if enforced, could go a long way in ensuring the health and safety of expats employed in the nation’s construction and service industries.
But how effectively the two organizations will be able to enforce their respective charters remains to be seen.
Credit: Photo by AsianFC