FIFA and trade unions reach agreement over Qatar

FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the President of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) and of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Michael Sommer, have agreed that fair working conditions must be introduced in Qatar.

The FIFA President mandated FIFA Executive Committee member Dr Theo Zwanziger to continue talks with the ITUC and involve human rights and labour organisations in these talks. He also reported on his meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

The meeting follows revelations over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar working on infrastructure projects.

A new report by Amnesty International, The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup, found Qatar’s construction sector rife with abuse, with workers employed on multi-million dollar projects suffering serious exploitation.

Following the meeting, Blatter, said: “Economic and political leaders must contribute to improving the unacceptable situation in Qatar.

“That is why I welcome the initiative shown by the DFB and ITUC because together we can achieve change. I am convinced that Qatar is taking the situation very seriously. These very discussions about Qatar show just what an important role football can play in generating publicity and thus bringing about change.”

German football president Wolfgang Niersbach, also in attendance, added: “The awarding of the World Cup and the considerable public exposure gives us the opportunity to point out irregularities and to exact lasting change. If we succeed, then a lot will have been achieved. It was a matter of priority for us to quickly bring together the International Trade Union Confederation and FIFA as contractual partners for Qatar.”

ITUC and DGB President Michael Sommer shared those sentiments, stating: “We are very pleased that FIFA and the DFB have joined us in our mission to establish humane working conditions in the host country of Qatar. Qatar must guarantee the ILO’s core labour standards and thus eliminate discrimination and forced labour as well as allow freedom of association for its 1.3 million migrant workers.”

While the moves to improve the conditions of the Qatar workforce are obviously welcome, it does make one wonder about the lengthy vetting process undertaken by FIFA prior to the awarding of the 2022 finals to the Gulf state. In the FIFA evaluation report, which ran to 36 pages, there was not one mention of the appalling conditions endured by migrant workers. Was this an oversight, or did FIFA simply not care how the World Cup infrastructure would be built, just so long as it was built?