“Every football fan, trade unionist and anybody who cares about decency must protest loudly.”
A recent report in the UK tabloid newspaper, the Daily Mirror, has revealed that Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, intends to take on the international football establishment over the horrific exploitation of migrant workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“Football is a beautiful game turned ugly by the heartbreaking ill-treatment of wave after wave of workers lured to Qatar on false promises, then trapped in a living hell,” said McCluskey following a secret night time visit to a labour camp outside the capital Doha, where he spoke to the workers and saw their squalid living conditions for himself.
The visit was part of a fact-finding mission organized by Building Workers’ International (BWI) during which McCluskey and the rest of his delegation—including two English Labour MPs, Ian Lavery and Naz Shah—met with the British ambassador in Qatar’s capital, Doha. The ambassador expressed his willingness to look into the grievances that migrant workers had raised to the delegation, including poor accommodation, unsafe working conditions, forced labour, assault by managers, and underpayment. McCluskey said the British Government felt the Qataris were “frightened” of unions, while Naz Shah, who represents Bradford West, criticised the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh for refusing to publish the numbers of their nationals dying in Qatar from accidents at work.
Trade unions are banned in Qatar, where the ‘kafala’ system allows employers immense control over all workers. Migrants are treated little better than slaves and need the permission of their bosses to quit their jobs or leave the country. Qatar has the world’s highest Gross Domestic Product per head of population at around $100,000, but migrant workers—who form almost 90% of the population—can earn as little as $2,000 a year.
Now the Unite General Secretary plans to create a united front with MPs, campaigners and other organizations such as the UK’s union for footballers, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), and football supporters’ clubs to demand guarantees from the five candidates to succeed Sepp Blatter at the top of Fifa so that whoever runs the Federation will address the issues involving Qatar’s migrant workers.
“Every football fan, trade unionist and anybody who cares about decency,” said McCluskey, “must protest loudly because we can’t stand by and look the other way, letting these workers be tortured like this.”
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