BWI 2019 Sports Conference -Consolidating Progress

07 October 2019 16:25


BWI affiliates in countries hosting mega-sporting events and active in the BWI global sports campaign for decent work and beyond along with representatives of national and global sporting bodies gathered  in Berlin on the 18th and 19th of September for the conference “Setting Strategies and identifying opportunities, hosted by FES and the German construction union, IG BAU.

The conference reviewed experience from previous events and discussed strategies for current and future Games. Those included the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 2022 World Cup in Qatar, 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, 2024 Euro Cup in Germany, 2026 World Cup in North America, and the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan.

In his opening remarks, Dietmar Schaefers, Vice-President of IG BAU and Chair of the BWI Ad-Hoc Working Group on Sports and Labour, said that, “The BWI global sports campaign for decent work started as a pilot project in 2006 prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; however, more than a decade later, the campaign has now become an institutional part of BWI's work."

In an effort help guide future host affiliates in developing their own courses of action and future input of the framework of BWI Global Sports campaign for Decent Work and Beyond, the first panel highlighted their union’s experience in campaigns to ensure safety and health and decent work in previous and current mega-sporting events. 

Gail Cartmail, Assistant Secretary General of UNITE the Union, sated that an important factor in the positive and safe outcome to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London was a pro-union government.  She stated, “Political lobbying was a key component of the trade union approach across the lifetime of the project.”

Keiji Kasuno, General Secretary of Zenkensoren noted that his union’s efforts were strengthened by BWI’s global campaign and in part the release of the BWI Report, “The Dark Side of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.  He said, “Through the BWI report, the precarious working conditions of construction workers was exposed and brought greater pressure on the Tokyo 2020 organizers to make improvements.”  

The panel discussions focusing on future mega-sporting events in Paris and Milan covered human rights accountability for those organising mega-sports facilities and for enterprises constructing them. This responsibility requires due diligence and includes sub-contractors and suppliers.

In the lead up to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the French trade unions have been actively engaged with all stakeholders for the creation of a Social Charter; however, the unions agreed that they would need to be innovative and active on the ground. 

According to Yves Gauby of CGT-France, “The Social Charter is only a tool.  We need to have presence on the ground and the CGT is committed to be on the site every week.  If we are successful, then we can prevent fatalities and accidents.”

This was reiterated by Pauline Bidaud of CFDT-France who stated, “We are trade unions and we need to be bold, innovative, and rise to the challenge.  We need to organize.”

Cédric Mermier, Deputy Director of Institutional Relations and Isabelle Sery, Responsible for Strategy, of 2024 Delivery Authority SOLIDEO attended the conference and expressed their commitment to engage trade unions – it even has a trade union representative in their Council. It was estimated that 11,700 construction workers will be mobilized in the five major construction sites.  For Milan, Claudio Sottile of FILCA-CISL laid out the plan of the trade unions in ensuring the 2026 Winter Olympics have decent working conditions and they have intervention and engagement plans.

In discussion panel moderated by Mirko Herberg, Global Coordinator for Trade Union Programme for FES, the focus was on Germany which would host the 2024 Euro Cup.  As the country prepares to host the Games, Sylvia Shenk, Chair of the Working Group on Sports, Transparency International Germanym stated that intervention for civil society and trade unions must start at the bidding phase.  She stated, “The host city contracts on mega-sporting events should include particular reference to deal with corruption and human and trade union rights in the entire supply chain.”

Dietmar Schaefers agreed and stated, “It should be a compulsory requirement in the bidding stage of mega-sporting events to hold a meaningful and genuine multi-stakeholder consultation to ensure social standards are incorporated”.

One of the highlights of the conference was the panel focused on the shifts and goals of the global governance in the world of sport.  Frederico Addiechi, the head of Sustainability and Diversity of FIFA, outlined the changes that FIFA had undertaken to ensure to ensure protection and promotion of human and workers’ rights.  He stated, “FIFA requires the submission of Human Rights Commitments and strategies which are assessed by independent third parties as part of FWC bidding processes.”

He also stressed the value of trade union involvement to FIFA as providing a voice of workers, credibility for cooperation, and monitoring conditions and respect of rights on the ground. He stated, “Involving trade unions is crucial to the credibility of any human rights protection mechanism in sport and beyond.”

Mahmoud Qutub, Executive Director of the Workers Welfare Department of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) in Qatar, stressed that the support of top leadership in the country was essential to standards and cooperation. He spoke of the development of their “Workers’ Charter” and outlined some of the problems that they had to deal with, including external recruitment of migrant workers.

The cooperation with BWI, according to Qutub, was important in making progress, including in the reduction of injuries and deaths. He stated, “We are in the third year of our collaboration with BWI which has taken our progress to the next level.  We often hear the negativity but through our transparency, I hope we can demonstrate progress.”

In closing the conference BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson described the ongoing way forward for BWI in terms of movement:

  • From campaigning to collaboration;

  • From negotiation to agreement;

  • From a consultative to an advisory role;

  • From standards to enforcement, and

  • From complaints to complaint mechanisms.

There is movement and there are also major differences in country situations and experience. However, participant contributions made it clear that a constant reality is that future, like past successes, will depend on global trade union solidarity .