BWI Conference looks at Nexus of Migration and Sports

03 July 2017 15:30


This week, from 27-28 June, the BWI held a two-day Global Conference on the Nexus of Sports and Migration in Berlin, Germany.  The event brought together diverse stakeholders essential in the dialogue on ensuring decent work for migrant workers including those responsible for building stadiums, sporting facilities, and other infrastructure project in mega-sporting events.

Representatives of BWI affiliates actively engaged in these global campaigns at the national level discussed and evaluated their progress, as well as strategized on the steps ahead. They were joined by civil society organizations, government representatives, the International Labour Organisation, Trade Union Solidarity Support Organizations, and members of the media.

In opening the conference, Fritz Heil of IG BAU-Germany welcomed participants on behalf of Dietmar Schaefers, Deputy President, BWI and Chair of BWI Global Sports Ad hoc Working Group.  Heil strongly outlined discrimination meted to migrants, refugees and posted workers in terms minimum standards including wages and health and emphasized on equal pay for equal work.

Following Heil’s opening address BWI President Per Olof Sjoo introduced His Excellency Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), who provided the key-note address.  In his introductions, Sjoo noted that despite the challenges, Al Thawadi, “took the risk to join in partnership with BWI, a global trade union federation”.

In his address, Al Thawadi, remarked that Qatar’s bid for the World Cup, “could and had to serve as a catalyst for accelerating positive and social change.”  In advancing this vision he outlined a number of SC initiatives, such as creation of Workers Welfare Standards and implementing a four-tier audit system. Al Thawadi also noted that the newly-established Workers Welfare Forums are an avenue for, “workers, via elected representatives, to raise matters of concern on any issue, without fear of retaliation.” 

He also noted the evolution of BWI-SC partnership, beginning with during the BWI’s first mission in Qatar.  Al Thawadi admitted that while it was an “intense meeting” and differences were obvious, it was evident that both the Supreme Committee and the BWI were “committed to ensuring the health, safety, security and dignity of all workers contributing to the World Cups in Qatar.”

This commitment resulted in the 2016 signing of the Memorandum of Understanding that focuses on health and safety through a number of initiatives, including joint safety inspections.  To date, three joint inspections have taken place and another three will be conducted by the end of the year.

This was followed by serious and intense panel debates that explored and assessed the strategies adopted, challenges faced and suggestions for future interventions. Discussions focused on the life-cycle of the migration process, including fair recruitment (specifically curbing grossing recruiter overcharging) and ensuring decent living and work conditions with particular reference to OHS standards. Integration of migrants and refugees, promoting humane and safe migration policy and practice, and the inclusion of human rights and labour standards in the bidding documents of international sporting bodies were other major issues taken up during the deliberations.

The meeting also provided an avenue to assess the progress made by the BWI on its sports campaign and celebrate achievements including signing agreements, conducting joint inspections and strengthening partnerships.

Commenting specifically on the future roadmap, BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson stated “The BWI has significantly expanded its work on the sports campaign in the last ten years and the centre of all the work being done remains decent jobs for workers. Based on the discussions held at this conference, the BWI strategy on sports campaigns will be sharpened, in particular institutionalizing joint inspections.

“The updated Global Sports and Migration campaign strategy will be presented at the 4th BWI World Congress later this year in Durban to mobilize the support and resources necessary to uphold the rights of construction and wood workers involved in mega-sporting events for the next 10 years.”