Bringing Stakeholders Together for Decent Work in Mega Sporting Events

15 October 2018 15:20

Trade union representatives from Russia, South Korea, India, Nepal, Ghana, Kenya, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, and the Philippines convened in Kathmandu, Nepal for a three-day conference focusing on BWI’s two major global sports campaigns – 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The conference was opened with welcoming remarks by J.B. Gurung, Coordinator of BWI-Nepalese Affiliates Council followed by Annette Schlicht, FES Nepal Resident Representative who recognized the economic contributions of Nepalese migrant workers through the millions of dollars then send in remittances back to the country.  She further congratulated the work of BWI in ensuring decent work for workers in relation to mega-sporting events.  Bishnu Rimal, Chief Political Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal extended solidarity greetings on behalf of the Government of Nepal and recognized the important role trade unions play in ensuring rights for migrant workers.  

The objectives of the conference were to highlight the key achievements in Russia and South Korea, evaluate the campaign, and provide recommendations for campaigns for upcoming mega-sporting events.  

Boris Soshenko, President of the Russian Building Workers Union recognized one of the most important achievements of the campaign was the MoU between BWI and his union with FIFA and FIFA LOC, which resulted in 35 joint inspections.  However, he admitted that there were limitations with the MoU stating, “Although we had access to the stadiums to talk to workers, in the end the companies did not make substantial changes to prevent accidents and fatalities.”

It was also noted during the session on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, that the union was not able to fully provide support and organize migrant works who composed at least 50 per cent of the workforce in the construction of the stadiums.  Noting this, as the union looks to the future, it will now revisit their work to addressing the large percentage of migrant workers in the construction industry in Russia.

In reflecting on their work, Jang Hyung Chang, Organizing Director of the Korea Construction Workers’ Union (KCWU), he noted that the campaign was critical in the establishment of the KCWU Gangwon branch noting that region is one of the most difficult areas to organize construction workers.  Despite this, Jang admitted the union could have done more.  He stated, “We should have set more concrete organizing targets as well as put more resources into organizing workers of all construction trades.”

One of the most challenging areas for the union during the campaign was the consistent government repression they faced resulting in a number of trade unionists being imprisoned.  Currently, three union leaders are in still in jail.

Christer Walivaara, International Strategist for 6F commented on the historical relationship between the Swedish and South Korean unions dating back to the late 1990s.  This long-term relationship was key to the Swedish unions continued support and solidarity to the KFCITU for both the campaign in PyeongChang as well as the union’s fight against trade union repression.

In addition to evaluating the campaigns in Russia and South Korea, the conference also reviewed the current campaign in Qatar with the intent of identifying the next steps for the campaign towards 2022. In this, the strategic campaign frame that included outreaching to migrant workers; engagement with construction companies; Qatari government, governments of countries of origin, corporate sponsors, and FIFA; and implementing a multi-media proved to be still relevant 

Johan Lindholm, President of Byggnads who had participated in joint safety inspections of 2022 World Cup stadiums as a result of the BWI agreement with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy emphasized the need to ensure that workers should be part of safety committees.  He stated, “It is important that we provide the necessary training for workers to be more aware of the safety and health standards at the worksite.  These trainings should be done regularly and consistently.”

Recognizing that 99% of the workforce in Qatar are migrant workers, panellists which included Wilma Roos, Policy Officer for FNV Mondiaal; Nina Kreutzmann International Secretary of Rakensuliitto; Sonny Matula, President of FFW, Binod Shrestha, President of GEFONT, and Ponkumar, President of TKMTS reinforced the campaign’s centrepiece of promoting the rights of migrant workers in Qatar.  

The conference was supported by FES, LO Norway, SBTF, SASK, SSGNE, and Union to Union.