Amnesty International revealed that migrant workers employed in the construction of the FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar have been working without pay for up to seven months. Approximately 100 employees of Qatar Meta Coats (QMC), a design and construction company, have been subcontracting facades at the Al Bayt stadium of 770 million euros, but are still waiting for full payment. After Amnesty International filed this case with the Qatar authorities, FIFA and the Qatar World Cup Organisation’s Supreme Delivery and Heritage Committee this week, some employees began to receive partial arrears, but were still owed wages.
“Migrant workers told us about the hardships they had while working without pay at the Al Bayt stadium for many months. They worry about their families who rely on the money they send home from Qatar to pay tuition fees and medical bills, “said Steve Cockburn, director of economic and social justice at Amnesty International. “This case is the latest damn illustration of how easy it is to continue to use workers in Qatar, even when they are building one of the World Cup crown jewels. We have been urging Qatar to reform the system for years, but evident changes have not occurred quickly enough. “Although recent payments will provide employees with welcome relief, Qatar World Cup organizers have told us that they know about pay delays from July 2019. This raises the question of why Qatar has allowed employees to continue working for many months without pay. No amnesty investigation should be carried out to ensure that employees receive the sums due to them. ”
In a briefing, Amnesty International also documents how QMC did not renew employees’ residence permits, exposing them to the risk of being detained and deported. Most are currently waiting for COVID-19 to be locked in cramped quarters in Doha, where QMC is still providing meals. Amnesty International continues to support all QMC employees to demand that Qatar and its World Cup partners pay them every penny due. They should also ensure that they have valid legal documents and receive a refund of any fees they have paid to secure their work at QMC. All of these actors must act quickly to stop abuse when discovered and quickly provide countermeasures.
Amnesty International interviewed current and former QMC employees, and reviewed court files and contracts. Employees stated that wage delays affected all employees working in Al Bayt, estimating that there are about 100 migrant workers from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and the Philippines.
The delay began in early 2019, and the situation deteriorated further to 2020. Although some salaries have been stopped as early as August, many employees have no salary at all for the work between September 2019 and the end of March 2020. QMC repeatedly assured the workers that their money came, but never fully fulfilled their promise.
Fight for justice
In January 2020, fed up with the company’s repeated promises, some employees complained to the labor tribunals in Qatar. During mediation sessions, QMC representatives agreed to satisfy some claims, but did not comply with them. Other employees have been informed by the company that they will receive payment only if they agree to terminate the contracts early and return home. Several employees said they had stopped coming to work, apparently in retaliation for having gone to court or refused to terminate contracts early. One employee, Kiran * (the name was changed to protect his identity), said: “The company has such an advantage over employees that you regret going to court. Whatever the company chooses to do Qatar favors them. Employees suffer because companies rule. ”
By the end of February 2020, QMC pulled all other employees from the stadium and asked them to report to a factory that produces and finishes materials, including aluminum and steel, apparently for use at the Al Bayt stadium. They worked there without pay until March 22, when it was closed due to a pandemic. After Amnesty International exchanged detailed correspondence with the Supreme Committee and other key actors who had known of continuous abuse for almost a year, the Supreme Committee informed Amnesty that employees would begin to receive immediate remuneration. Indeed, on June 7, employees confirmed to Amnesty that some of them had received some of what they were guilty of. However, employees confirmed that not everyone received the payment, and even those who were not paid full amounts.
Refuse to provide documents
Because QMC has not been able to renew for months in a row, most people have now expired their residence permits, which makes the situation of workers even worse. Under the Qatar system in Qatar, migrant workers rely almost on all aspects of the employer’s legal business in the country. Employers are responsible for providing them with valid residence permits, otherwise immigrants will not be able to work legally in the country, will be fined and may be detained or deported. Without the permission of the employer, they cannot change jobs.
Like many migrant workers who come to the Persian Gulf, QMC employees have paid a large fee to find a job in Qatar, which is prohibited by Qatar employment law. People interviewed by the researchers said they had paid between 900 and 2000 USD to recruitment agents in their countries. Many had to take out loans to cover these fees and are now struggling to support their families. Kiran said he could not go home yet or pay school fees for younger siblings because he contracted debts in connection with his work at QMC in Qatar. “The future did not look good for me before I came to Qatar … I was unemployed and could not find a job in my country … I am the only person who looks after my parents and siblings and I thought that coming to Qatar would improve the situation for all of us … But unfortunately everything did not go as expected. ”
Answers to the allegations
In written responses to Amnesty International, QMC confirmed payment delays due to financial difficulties and stated that it was trying to resolve them. The Supreme Committee told Amnesty that he first learned about QMC payment problems in July 2019. During audit interviews with employees, and since then he has taken various measures to try to remedy the abuse, including meeting the company management, put on black leaves from future contracts and inform the Ministry of Labor. FIFA said she contacted the Supreme Committee when she learned of the case after Amnesty’s investigation, and is now working with partners in Qatar to ensure that all outstanding salaries are paid without further delay. It remains unclear, however, why FIFA did not know about the abuse at the Al Bayt stadium until May 2020. Amnesty International has also written to the Ministry of Labor, but has not received any reply so far.
FIFA needs to speed up The welfare standards of Supreme Committee employees, which require companies participating in World Cup projects to ensure respect for all employees’ rights and remove abuse, seem to allow the Supreme Committee to quickly detect problems in QMC. However, they were unable to provide timely payments to QMC employees, which indicates that these standards are still inappropriate to stop abuses and provide timely remedies when companies are unable to pay or fail to comply with them. Meanwhile, the fact that FIFA was not aware of the difficult situation of employees at one of their World Cup stadiums by such long shows that it still does not take seriously the human rights violations associated with the Qatar World Cup 2022. “If in the last 10 years FIFA accounted for its World Championship partners and used its strength to force Qatar to fully reform its systems, we would not have heard the same stories about employee suffering, having only two and a half years to start,” said Steve Cockburn .