The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) welcomes the report by the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board. It calls on FIFA to fully implement the series of recommendations made by the Advisory Board.
The eight-member board, on which the BWI General Secretary serves, operated in a transparent and independent manner in accordance with its mandate. Its report, which was organised in line with the key recommendations of Professor John Ruggie in his 2015 report to FIFA, “For the Game. For the World” focused on many human rights issues including workers’ rights, corruption, security issues, and discrimination.
BWI recognizes and commends FIFA in accepting the suggestions from the Board to add details on international human rights instruments to its criteria for bidding and host selection for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Clear criteria can help to avoid urgent human rights violations when construction and other work are already underway.
In terms of ongoing construction activities in Russia for the 2018 games and in Qatar for the 2022 games, BWI shares the Board’s concerns about inadequate transparency in Russia. As the report outlined, the BWI along with its Russian affiliate the Russian Building Workers Union (RBWU) has been participating in joint safety visits as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding that the BWI signed with FIFA and FIFA LOC.
The joint monitoring visits revealed a number of problems including the employment of migrant workers from North Korea. Although this problem has been corrected with less than one year to go, BWI is concerned about the high number of fatalities. It should be noted that in the Volgograd stadium alone there have been six fatalities in 2016-2017.
Another area of concern is wages for workers at the 2018 World Cup stadium sites. The wage system “salary plus bonus”, allows employers to cut workers’ wages when employers have financial difficulties. Minimum wages without bonuses are low and, for migrant workers, who make up over 50 per cent of the total workforce, it is difficult to change employers or go home. In such situations, the only way for workers to get back unpaid wages is to organize protest actions or strikes. 2018 World Cup workers organized seven spontaneous strikes due to unpaid wages.
BWI believes that the goal of the joint monitoring visits should go beyond compliance of legal provisions to address key workers issues in construction. That includes making sure that all measures are taken to prevent fatal accidents and that workers receive the wages that they were promised and are paid in full and on time. In this, the BWI is working with FIFA to address the problems on the ground and recognizes that positive steps have been taken.
The Advisory Board report, which was agreed in September, notes the progress in Qatar on labour legislation and enforcement as well as in the joint inspections of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy with BWI. In further developments since the Board met, the ILO Governing Body has ended its examination of the forced labour aspects of the kafala system based on actions of and assurances from the Government of Qatar. The ILO will undertake a three-year, technical cooperation programme with the government to help ensure that Qatar is in full conformity with ILO labour standards.
In addition to cooperation with the Supreme Committee, BWI has reached a framework agreement covering Qatar with QDVC and VINCI. Like the agreement with the Supreme Committee, it covers health and safety and the resolution of worker grievances. In both cases, BWI will seek to develop the participation of workers in those complementary procedures.
Other recommendations of the FIFA Advisory Board include:
· Additional outreach to stakeholders by FIFA, including international trade union federations.
· Seeking deeper engagement in the FIFA human rights process by member associations.
· The development of systems to more consistently identify the greatest human rights risks to those affected by FIFAs activities and business relationships.
· That FIFA focus on the root causes of all fatalities and serious injuries in the Russia games and analyse risks and the effectiveness of the monitoring system in the final stages of construction with the involvement of all parties to the MoU.
· In Qatar, FIFA should examine possibilities to extend the Supreme Committee/BWI joint inspections directly to sub-contractors and expand cooperation to cover other human rights risks.
· Encourage FIFA engagement with the SC, together with BWI, on the importance of direct consultation and involvement of workers in health and safety.
· That FIFA adopt systems of joint inspections as the norm for construction of future World Cup game facilities.
· FIFA promotion of a policy with host countries for direct employment of most construction workers by main contractors.
· Encouraging FIFA to support BWI efforts to reach agreements with construction companies operating in Qatar.
· That FIFA continue to engage directly with BWI regarding efforts in both Russia and Qatar to strengthen the effectiveness of existing grievance mechanisms for workers.
This is the first report of the Advisory Board. The board intends to follow the human rights problems and FIFAs responses and review them on a regular basis. This process will be facilitated by the development of a formal tracking system for progress on the Board’s recommendations in the next round of reporting.