UNI Global Union and World Players Association welcomes moves to abolish Kafala system and end modern slavery in Qatar
The Qatari government announced that it will abolish the Kafala system—an oppressive labour sponsorship program for workers primarily in construction and domestic work. Many of the workers building stadiums for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup were employed through this system. Global labour leaders and rights advocates have the following response:
“UNI Global Union and the World Players Association welcome moves by the Qatari government to dismantle the Kafala system and end modern slavery,” UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said today.
“The reforms announced by Qatar will not only end the manifest injustice of Kafala, but include a minimum wage, the establishment of freely elected workers’ committees and support for workers seeking remediation. The decision to normalize industrial relations in the country should significantly improve the working conditions of the two million migrant workers involved in building and servicing the infrastructure being put in place for the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Jennings said.
In 2014, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) had filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) regarding the exploitation of these workers. After the new commitments made by Qatar, the ILO has been able to close the complaint.
In the view of Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, “Qatar has set a new standard for the Gulf States” which must be followed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE where the exploitation of migrant workers is ongoing.
“Any human and labour rights violations in connection to major sporting events cannot be tolerated. World Players is committed to ensuring that the rights of everyone involved in the delivery of sport are respected, protected and fulfilled”, said World Players Executive Director Brendan Schwab.
UNI Global Union, World Players and the ITUC have been working in partnership with the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) to ensure that international sporting organisations (ISOs) embed human rights commitments into all of their activities and throughout the entire life-cycle of their major events.
“The last year has seen substantial progress with ISOs such as FIFA, UEFA, the International Olympic Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation all make commitments aimed at protecting, respecting and fulfilling human rights. The reforms in Qatar show that governments – and not just ISOs and business – must also play a leading role,” Schwab said.
SRA partner, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), will a sign union agreement with the French based multinational construction company VINCI and its joint venture partner at the end of the months, covering all workers in Qatar. BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson called the agreement “a major step towards the full respect of workers’ rights in Qatar.”
World Players is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Mega Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights, a multi-stakeholder coalition of ISOs, major brands, broadcasters, governments, trade unions, and civil society groups.
“Players worldwide agree that sport must always act as force for positive change and development. The reforms in Qatar are an encouraging step forward. We will continue to advocate for governments and sporting bodies to conducts their affairs in compliance with internationally recognised human and labour rights,” Schwab added.