Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Qatar admits workers at World Cup 2022 showcase stadium went unpaid

Abuse issues blight preparations for the 2022 football event

Construction work under way at a World Cup 2022 stadium in Doha, Qatar. Lars Baron / Bongarts / Getty Images
Construction work under way at a World Cup 2022 stadium in Doha, Qatar. Lars Baron / Bongarts / Getty Images

Qatar has admitted that workers at its major World Cup 2022 stadium went unpaid for at least seven months.

The Qatari government said it was aware of the issues involving payments to workers involved in the construction of the £685m 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium since last summer.

Qatar has faced heavy criticism over the treatment of migrant workers building its stadiums, with some paid less than Dh4 an hour.

It has claimed 34 workers have died in the past six years but human rights groups say the actual figure is more than 1,400.

An investigation by Amnesty International has found that at least 100 migrant workers involved in the construction of £685m 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium have not been paid for months.

Construction company Qatar Meta Coats faced allegations that it owed substantial sums to its workforce.

Qatar has now revealed the company, which has now been sold, has been financially sanctioned and its operations were suspended until the outstanding salaries were paid.

It says the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs is now overseeing the construction.

“In September 2019, the ADLSA was made aware, by the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy, of delayed salary payments by Qatar Meta Coats,” it said.

“The company was financially sanctioned, and operations were suspended until all outstanding salaries were paid. Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats’ workforce received irregular salary payments during this period.

“ADLSA is overseeing the activities of the new ownership to rectify the neglect of the previous owner, including renewing expired residence permits and health cards.”

Qatar claims it has now “bolstered legislative and operational frameworks” to improve and protect the rights of workers and has warned companies flouting the rules will face heavy penalties.

“We have made it clear to all employers that, in line with legislation, incidents of non-compliance will result in strict sanctions, including heavy fines, shutting down worksites, blacklisting and prosecuting individuals responsible for neglecting the welfare of their workforce,” it said.

“Furthermore, as part of our efforts to tackle exploitative labour practices by companies, draft legislation was passed last week to increase financial and non-financial penalties for labour law violations, including those related to delayed salary payments.”

The action comes after Amnesty International raised the issue with the Qatari authorities, Fifa, and Qatar’s World Cup organisers.

“This case is the latest damning illustration of how easy it still is to exploit workers in Qatar, even when they are building one of the crown jewels of the World Cup,” Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, Steve Cockburn, said.

“For years we have been urging Qatar to reform the system, but clearly change has not come fast enough. It shouldn’t take an Amnesty investigation for workers to be paid what they are owed.”

Qatar has a migrant workforce of more than two million people, accounting for 95 per cent of its labour force.

About 30,000 migrants are involved in its stadium projects.

The Nepalese government says more than 1,400 of its citizens have died working on stadiums in Qatar since 2010, when the country won the contract to host the football World Cup.

In June last year, Nepal and the Philippines took steps to protect their citizens against abuses.

Updated: June 11, 2020 04:42 PM

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