2nd May 2017

Swiss set cooperation conditions for FIFA and Qatar on worker rights

The international federation of football associations (FIFA) and Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have agreed to cooperate to ensure the ongoing safety of workers building the stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, after a human rights complaint by a trade body was resolved. The Swiss National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Swiss NCP) agreed a number of cooperative conditions with which all involved parties must comply.

The Swiss NCP was responding to a 28 May 2015 complaint from Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) about human rights violations concerning migrant workers building the stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. The complaint asked the Swiss NCP to consider a specific instance under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines concerning FIFA, which is based in Zurich. The complaint was resolved on 21 March, and as part of the agreement, a ‘Final Statement’ was published today (PDF below).

The agreement requires a number of commitments from FIFA, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (responsible for delivering the Qatar 2022 infrastructure) and BWI. These are as follows:

• FIFA will invite BWI to appoint one of its staff as a member of its Human Rights Advisory Board. The Board held its first meeting in March this year, and will provide recommendations to FIFA every six months.
• BWI to be involved in the development and implementation of FIFA’s human rights policy contained within the new Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes.
• The human rights policy to be implemented in the Supreme Committee’s Workers’ Welfare Standards and Health and Safety Manual.
• Human rights compliance of subcontractors throughout the supply chain ‘is essential’, states the report, which mentions the ‘complexity’ of such compliance for tiers three and four of the supply chain.|
• Cooperation to be enhanced for resolving worker complaints on violations of the OECD guidelines that are not ‘addressed by existing mechanisms’.
• Parties to meet twice a year to discuss worker issues.
• FIFA and BWI to ‘strengthen their collaboration’ by reaching out to relevant stakeholders and local authorities to develop concrete measure to ensure that working and accommodation conditions are safe for Qatar 2022 stadium construction workers.
• Report to be sent to the Swiss NCP on progress made by 2 November this year. The NCP will then decide whether additional follow-up meetings are needed.

The Final Statement also mentioned a number of ongoing issues that require resolution. ‘The parties share concerns about the payment of migrant workers’, it reads, adding that FIFA has been informed that electronic payments have been implemented in an attempt to impose the situation. FIFA also committed to using ‘its leverage to the fullest extent’ to facilitate further discussions between the Supreme Committee and BWI for ways in which to monitor worker conditions at Qatar 2022 projects.

FIFA and the Supreme Committee also acknowledged that existing procedures regarding grievance mechanisms for Qatar 2022 workers ‘do not suffice and should be reviewed and improved’. The Final Statement mentioned that a meeting in Doha will take place on this topic, however a date was not mentioned. ‘FIFA intends to address this matter at the next available opportunity’, reads the Statement.

Qatar 2022 migrant worker kitchen

The Supreme Committee and BWI began inspecting Qatar 2022 stadium sites in February, after a deal between the two bodies was agreed in November last year. The number of workers engaged on Qatar 2022 projects is due to reach its peak of 36,000 workers during the next year. A total of eight stadiums are planned for the tournament, and there can be 10,000 workers on site at any time. Conditions endured by migrant workers building the stadiums for the tournament have been heavily criticised by FIFPro and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In April last year, FIFA created an oversight body intended to ensure better living and working conditions for migrants working on Qatar 2022 projects.

‘FIFA considers the discussions to have been very constructive and fruitful with the objective of further promoting and strengthening the on-going efforts for the improvement of the migrant workers’ welfare engaged in construction infrastructure connected with the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar’, read a statement. ‘FIFA looks forward to the continued engagement with BWI along the lines outlined in the Final Statement and in the form of specific projects’.

In January, the Commercial Court of Zurich rejected a claim lodged by Dutch trade union FNV, the Bangladeshi Free Trade Union Congress, the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation and Bangladeshi citizen Nadim Shariful Alam concerning FIFA’s alleged wrongful conduct and liability for human rights violations in connection with Qatar 2022. ‘FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights’, reads Article 3 of the latest version of the FIFA Statutes, which came into force on 27 April last year. FIFA commissioned a report from John Ruggie of Harvard University on what it would mean for the organisation to respect international human rights guidelines after media highlighted the conditions endured by some of the migrant workers building the Qatar 2022 stadiums. The 2015 version of its Statutes does not mention human rights.

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