BWI 2019 Sports Conference - Looking Forward

16 September 2019 08:31

BWI, a global union federation, that has been spearheading the fight for labour and human rights in mega-sporting events, is holding a conference entitled “Sports Campaigning in the 2020’s: Setting Strategies and Identifying Opportunities” from 18-19 September at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Haus 1 located Hiroshimastraße 17 in Berlin, Germany. The conference is hosted by FES and the German construction union IG BAU.

The conference, which comes at a critical point in the discourse of sports and human rights, will showcase BWI’s work and its future plans in the world of mega-sporting events. In these discussions, representatives of key stakeholders from sports governing bodies and committees such as FIFA, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar, and a French publicly established body to oversee the preparation of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, SOLIDEO, as well as sports rights advocate Sylvia Shenk, and BWI affiliates that have organized workers in London, Qatar, and Tokyo will be present.

Dietmar Schaefers, Vice-President of IG BAU and Chair of the BWI Ad Hoc Working Group on Sports and Labour, in discussing the conference, stated, “This is a great opportunity to plan our strategies based on our past experience. Our success increases to the extent that we can, on the one hand, have advance preparation for what is a short window of opportunity when structures are being built and, on the other hand, get leaders from our member organisations to plan strategies.”

During the conference, there will be a review of the experience of BWI in mega-sporting events such as the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 20222 World Cup in Qatar, and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. In such events, for BWI, there are always surprises. Some of them are unpleasant and disappointing.

In Japan, for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, BWI has made every effort, in cooperation with its affiliates, to reach out and cooperate with those responsible for organising the Games. We are particularly concerned about the ongoing occupational health and safety dangers. We even prepared a careful and factual report on these risks and made some recommendations. Unfortunately, the Olympic authorities have failed to resolve the problems we have raised and at the conference, the BWI will present new cases.

On the other hand, in a country without trade union traditions, Qatar, much progress has been made although admittedly there is still room for improvement. Although full trade union and worker rights are not yet protected, we have developed a good working relationship with Qatari authorities including the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and some major companies. We have joint health and safety inspections and are working together to train elected representatives of Workers Welfare Committee and Workers Welfare Forums serve as mechanisms to address workers’ grievances. In many ways, we have made more progress in Qatar than in Japan.

In Paris, the host of the 2024 summer Olympics and in Germany which will host the 2024 EuroCup, the trade union movement has been involved from the beginning of the process. BWI is hoping that these games can set a new “gold standard” for mega-sporting events against which all future events are judged. That means due diligence, not only with respect to the practices of contractors, but also for sub-contractors and suppliers. That means early cooperation with trade unions, nationally and globally, good labour standards enforced by governments through labour inspection, and joint cooperation on occupational health and safety.

Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI, stated, “It is important that mega-sporting events are free from human rights and labour rights violations. We think that it is achievable to have mega-sporting events where no workers are killed and where health and safety problems are reduced to the absolute minimum. We think it is possible to have events where all human rights, including worker rights, are respected. And, we are all committed to making that happen.”