Dribble or goal? BWI pushes for proposals to complete labour reforms in Qatar

*The Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) tracks the score for decent work legacy and announces new partnership with football players worldwide (FIFPRO)

With 16 months before the 2022 World Cup Qatar kick-off, the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), the Global Trade Union Federation representing 351 trade unions in the Building, Build Materials, Wood, Forestry and Allied sectors in 127 countries, puts forward twelve proposals to ensure a decent work legacy in Qatar towards and beyond the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

While rapid progress on legislation and regulation has been made to achieve fundamental rights and freedoms for migrant workers in Qatar, persistent problems remain to ensure the full implementation of reforms in practice, according to the BWI Progress Report 2021 Dribble or Goal? Tracking the Score for Decent Work Legacy in Qatar. 

Of particular relevance are the accomplishments of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) regarding decent work gains and workers’ welfare standards around World Cup stadium sites. The institution of Workers Welfare Forums as a form of representation of migrant workers, and several other measures ranging from responsible recruitment to health and safety joint inspections are important changes. So are the abolition of the Kafala sponsorship system, the Minimum Wage Law and the dispute settlement mechanism. They are all steps in the right direction, but migrant workers still experience hardships and do not enjoy the full exercise of their fundamental rights. 

BWI warns that the profound and far-reaching reforms adopted will not significantly improve the respect of rights and meet the demands of workers in Qatar until the growing gap between policy and practice is closed. “The 16 months remaining before the World Cup offer an opportunity which should not be missed to ensure a football legacy of decent work way beyond the moment when the world champions will have raised the golden World Cup. We call on all groups responsible for building such a legacy towards and beyond the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 to keep your eyes on the goal until real progress is achieved in the lives of migrant workers in Qatar.” said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.

The BWI has a unique overview of the situation of migrant workers, especially those employed in the World Cup stadium construction and other infrastructure facilities in Qatar,” he added. “Our recommendations to the Qatar Authorities, to FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) and to Multinational Companies are based on information provided by migrant workers. They are the best placed to know whether reforms are being delivered.” Yuson concluded.

BWI Deputy President Dietmar Schäfers said, “In any country, as it just so happens in my own country, Germany, the success of reforms can only be measured on the ground. This is exactly where our recommendations come from. They aim at an effective enforcement of the new labour reforms and occupational safety and health regulations; at fair recruitment and universal reimbursement schemes; at workers’ welfare; at a fully operational and funded workers’ support and insurance fund; at timely remedy of workers’ complaints and grievances; but also concerning due diligence and joint inspections.” 

“Most of all, migrant workers need to be aware of their rights, to build confidence and overcome fear. For reforms to be successful and sustainable, they should be actively involved in the next steps. Migrants Workers’ Centers for migrants and run by migrants would be a key instrument to fulfil the legacy of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup.” Schäfers concluded. 

Football players have spoken out about their concerns on the workers’ welfare and human rights conditions in Qatar. To support and empower them to act on their desire to impact the legacy of major competitions, FIFPRO sign today a partnership agreement with BWI to join forces and create joint actions for the protections of workers’ rights.

FIFPRO’s General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said “Players are not part of the host country decision-making structures of any football tournament. Nevertheless, they show a strong desire to use their voice for the advancement of the fundamental rights of all those involved. We are extremely proud of these players and as their collective voice FIFPRO is joining forces with BWI to provide them with practical solutions to make a difference.” 

“This is just the starting point for players, football stakeholders, civil society organisation’ and decision makers of all kinds to work together to achieve tangible improvements of human rights for all – on and off the football pitch.” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann concluded.

The way Qatar Authorities, FIFA and SC, and Multinational Companies will respond to the BWI recommendations and engage in dialogue and cooperation to produce real changes for migrant workers will determine the legacy of the World Cup. It will set the tone for many years in Qatar and in the Gulf. Building and Woodworkers’ International and other global trade unions, football players associations, human rights and multilateral organisations are united in our call to place human dignity, decent work, fairness and solidarity at the heart of their campaign to improve the lives of thousands of migrant workers in Qatar towards the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and beyond.

Download BWI's 2021 Progress Report for EN (original version), FR and DE here.