By Andrew Warshaw
January 9 – A Swiss court has rejected a claim by three trade unions from Bangladesh and the Netherlands that FIFA failed to exert its influence to ensure fair treatment for migrant workers after handing Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
The lawsuit over the exploitation of workers on construction sites was filed by the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress and the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation, backed by the Dutch union FNV, on behalf of 21-year-old Bangladeshi national Nadim Shariful Alam who worked in Qatar between 2014 and 2016.
Lawyers acting for FNV and Alam claimed he paid nearly €4,000 to travel to work in Qatar, where he unloaded freight ships for 18 months before losing his job and being thrown out of the country. FIFA were given three weeks to pay damages before a court case was launched calling on FIFA to force Qatar to adopt “minimum labour standards”.
If the action had been successful it could have opened the door for hundreds of other migrant workers to make similar claims.
FIFA said in a statement it welcomed the ruling by the Commercial Court of over its “alleged wrongful conduct and liability for human rights violations.”
The Gulf state has faced constant criticism over its treatment of foreign workers from human rights bodies but insists it is implementing labour reforms not least abolishing the controversial ‘kafala’ system under which foreign workers must get their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.
The Qatar government passed a new law last month but human rights watchdogs say the changes do not go far enough.
FIFA said in its statement that it took labour conditions in Qatar “very seriously.”
“FIFA monitors the situation very closely and … will continue to urge the Qatari authorities to ensure safe and decent working conditions for construction workers,” it said.
It insisted progress was being made in Qatar to “address human rights risks linked to the 2022 event” including minimum welfare standards on World Cup construction sites, regular compliance checks and a new agreement between global trade union BWI and Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy which permits inspection visits.
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