Qatar – fighting for rights and decent working conditions

It was a pleasure to meet representatives of Building and Woodworkers International – including their general secretary Ambet Yuson – yesterday to discuss their impressive work campaigning for workers in Qatar.

At present working in construction in Qatar is one of the world’s most dangerous professions, and the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup, taking place in the emirate, has highlighted that fact. The country is undergoing a building frenzy, with eight new football stadiums and 54 team camps being built alongside vast infrastructure work – they’re even building a new city to host the final.

This has been made possible by a population boom – with 1.7 million of Qatar’s 2.3 million residents from overseas, mostly from Asian countries including India, Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh.

Those working in the Qatari construction sector have few rights, unions are effectively banned and the ILO has given Qatar a year to get its house in order.

FIFA has the power to speak to sponsors and companies working in the Qatar to ensure workers are treated fairly and decently – yet injuries and deaths are still happening on a terrifying scale.

As a trade unionist and an internationalist – as well as a football fan – I’m appalled by what’s happening in Qatar.

UNISON has taken part in the TUC’s Playfair Qatar campaign – calling for FIFA to ensure the World Cup is not held at the expense of young migrant workers lives – and we will be using our contacts in the UK and overseas to highlight these abuses.

We will keep on making ourselves heard on this until the death rate in Qatar’s construction sector is reduced to zero, and workers can freely choose employment. No-one should ever be placed in such great risk at work, or denied their most basic and fundamental rights.

UNISON will continue to stand with those who face such ill-treatment, whether at home or abroad.