The Qatar experience: The power of social dialogue

Social dialogue is one of the many tools utilised by BWI in advancing labour rights. This is all the more true with the global union’s efforts to advance migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. 

In one of BWI’s Global Sports Conference sessions held last year, Amin Rasul of the Migrants Community Leaders Forum in Qatar, Byggnads (Sweden) President Johan Lindholm, Centre for Sports and Human Rights Deputy Chief Executive William Rook, FIFA Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination head Andreas Graf, FIFPro General Secretary Theovan Seggelen and Mexican Senator-unionist Napoleon Gomez Urrutia (video message) took turns in discussing the legacy of social dialogue in the context of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

The discussion, which was facilitated by BWI Deputy President and UNITE UK Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail, also looked into the future of social dialogue as demonstrated by BWI and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), as well as the new challenges posed to this interchange by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Amin said that many good changes have happened to migrant workers, especially those working in building the World Cup infrastructure, since BWI’s engagement with the Qatari government. 

This was echoed by Rook who said that the development of good practices and leading standards in the World Cup project is an example of the power of social dialogue. 

Graf, on the other hand, said that as tournament organisers, they have learned a lot from their social dialogue with BWI and the SC. “We aim to promote a wider legacy through our own engagement as FIFA in the political level in the promotion of human rights,” he said. 

However, Amin said that the momentum of labour reforms should be sustained beyond the World Cup event.  

Byggnads said that trade unions will continue to bring more labour reforms in FIFA and World Cup events. This should be more than just about football games,” Lindholm stressed. 

Meanwhile, in a video message, Urrutia said that this early, they are already preparing for the 2026 World Cup in Mexico. He said that the accumulated lessons and experiences of trade unionists working for labour reforms in Qatar, particularly on the area of social dialogue, will serve as important handles in navigating new terrains. “The 2026 World Cup in Mexico will open new opportunities for employment for our workers. But we also want to open new opportunities to improve the working conditions and rights of our fellow workers,” he said.