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Friday, July 23, 2021

Blatter: Qatar companies, not FIFA, responsible for workers’ rights

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Responding to calls on FIFA to pressure Qatar into changing its labor standards, President Sepp Blatter has said the companies who hire workers – and not the world’s football governing body – are responsible for ensuring employee rights.

Speaking to reporters in Sri Lanka, the official said, as quoted by Reuters:

“In Qatar they are working in big companies from Germany, from France, from England and from other European countries and they are responsible of their workers and not FIFA.”

According to the Guardian, Blatter added that there are now “better conditions” in Qatar because it is hosting the 2022 World Cup.

The official’s position is a bit of a departure from the previous approach FIFA had taken with regards to labor rights in Qatar. Previously, FIFA put the onus on the government to ensure abuses do not continue to occur here.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter with Qatar's Emir.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter with Qatar\’s Emir.

In January for example, the organization asked Qatar to send a report detailing its plan to improve the situation of migrant workers.

Blatter also met with the Emir a few months before that to discuss concerns about exploitation of workers, and was told at the time that the country was working to mitigate these issues.

In a statement then, FIFA executive committee member Dr. Theo Zwanziger was quoted as saying:

“We are currently in the middle of an intensive process, which is exclusively aimed at improving the situation of workers in Qatar. Ultimately, what we need are clear rules and steps that will build trust and ensure that the situation, which is unacceptable at the moment, improves in a sustainable manner.”

Companies’ responsibility

While government enforcement of the labor law is critical, placing some of the responsibility on companies that hire migrant workers here is not entirely unfair.

Expats can become victims of the system long before arriving to Doha, according to a report commissioned over the summer by Qatar Foundation.

Recruitment companies in sending countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines are responsible for supplying the vast majority of laborers employed in Qatar’s construction industry.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But many of the practices employed by these companies are fueled by bribery, deceit and corruption, the report stated.

Some of the main problems involve the hefty fees many expats must pay to recruitment companies to secure their passage to Qatar, and the false contracts presented to them in their home countries.

Workers’ woes are compounded in Qatar when their employers withhold passports, delay or don’t pay wages or get stuck in the system due to kafala rules, the report added.

Author Dr. Ray Jureidini called for a serious overhaul of the system, saying the Qatari government should lead the reforms by developing ethical recruitment practices with the sending countries.

Labor rights debate

International rights groups have stepped up scrutiny of Qatar in the years since it was awarded hosting rights for the World Cup.

The Gulf state is currently in the midst of a building boom that is heavily reliant on migrant labor, mostly sourced from poor countries such as Nepal, India and the Philippines.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Concerns about workplace safety, hygienic living conditions and problems with wage payment are among some of the issues raised by a number of groups who have visited Qatar, including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Last month, Amnesty warned that time was running out for Qatar to make any meaningful changes. While there have been promises of new laws to protect migrant workers from abuse at the hands of their employers, little has changed on the ground in Qatar, the group said in a new report.

For its part, Qatar has promised that reform to the kafala system, including making it easier to change jobs and leave the country, are coming. But they may not take effect until next year at the earliest.

Thoughts?

31 COMMENTS

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Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago

He’s not wrong, it is the companies responsibility to follow qatars laws. While qatars responsibility is to first write laws that protect the workers, then punish companies that break the law.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

Absolutely spot on

Pete
Pete
6 years ago

You have the law and you have public pressure. Your argument didn’t help brands like Nike, Adidas or Apple when it came to workers rights in Asia.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Pete

Your right, when the country fails to make good laws or uphold existing laws. It is up 2 the public 2 put pressure on them and on those companies.

Those brands get away with it because much of the public in there countries don’t care what the companies do as long as they do it far away. While much of the asian public doesn’t care what is happening in there own back yard

I am not a slave, I got pride
I am not a slave, I got pride
6 years ago

Do you know one thing? Even the Emirs father private office itself is not much behind when it comes to labour exploitation. First start reforms from there. Let all the employees be happy there first. Then only you can change the country.

KingOfKings
6 years ago

The Emir is the person who absolutely WANTS this to keep happening. Nothing in Qatar happens without the Emir’s agreement. If you think the Emir wants to end slavery but he is not able to, then my friend…. hehe I don’t know what to tell you.

KingOfKings
6 years ago

This law will NEVER be implemented. Why? Because the moment this law is out, EVERY project in Qatar will not complete. The slaves will leave and quit and run for their lives. The Emir of Qatar will NEVER allow the slaves to leave before the projects finish, which is why Kafala will NEVER change.

I hope that was clear 😉

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

Next question, Now what if this companies don’t follow the laws and rules and nothing is being done to get them to follow the rules

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

Then for godsake don’t actually try and help any worker, but comment on dohanews because that’s how you really make a difference

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

There’s a whole lot of mixed messages being sent by FIFA on this issue. You have Jerome Valcke saying in 2011

“We had a first meeting today with the International Trade Union Confederations (ITUC) about labour rights in Qatar in connection with the 2022 FIFA World Cup™. In the meeting it was agreed that FIFA and ITUC will work jointly over the next few months to address labour issues with the Qatari authorities. It was also agreed to add labour related criteria to the bidding process of future FIFA World Cups…We have a responsibility that goes beyond the development of football and the organisation of our competitions.”

And more recently he also said FIFA was “committed to assuming its role and responsibility … so that the situation of migrant workers in Qatar and their labour rights is addressed with the necessary urgency considering the seriousness of the matter.”

Blatter seems to me to be wanting to have it both ways, when he says things like this while paying a “courtesy” visit to the Emir about a year ago:

“It is not Fifa’s primary responsibility but we cannot turn a blind eye but it is not a direct intervention from Fifa that can change things.”

He went on to say:

“Economic and political leaders must contribute to improving the unacceptable situation in Qatar. That is why I welcome the initiative shown by the DFB [German football federation] and ITUC because together we can achieve change,” he said. “I am convinced Qatar is taking the situation very seriously. These very discussions about Qatar show what an important role football can play in generating publicity and thus bringing about change.”

Sounds to me like FIFA thought they could pressure Qatar into changing its industrial relations landscape, but have failed to get their way, so now they are saying it’s not really their problem after all.

KingOfKings
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

FIFA only challenges the numbers written on paychecks. Nothing more nothing less.
Do you really think FIFA gives a cr*p about Qatar’s slaves? They don’t even care that ISIS has threatened to bomb the WC if it takes place in Qatar. Qatar needs that slavery system to be able to build their country before 2022. If that system is not in place, FIFA will have to convert this “winter” WC into a beach football tournament by 2022…

AMM
AMM
6 years ago

It’s very true that manpower agencies from Asian countries are cheating their own people. They also bribe HR staff within companies in Qatar that are from same Asian countries. Qatar has the right laws in place and they just have to be executed properly, same applies to traffic laws here. I agree that FIFA is not responsible for how the companies treat their employees and the World Cup is a catalyst for positive changes. If the WC wouldn’t be given to Qatar we would not even hear about some of the mistreatments of labours.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  AMM

Qatar does not have the right laws in place. The NOC is the Sword of Damacles held over every migrant worker. Abolish it and allow a free labour market where employers actually have to compete to get staff and you solve all the current problems.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

NOC is not the problem, enforcement of current laws and the exit permit is

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Totally disagree with that. The NOC is the problem. It the means of enslaving the workers while they are here, and of course it is the one aspect of the law that is rigorously enforced.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Is it me or is Blatter nose growing each time he gives an interview?

I am not a slave, I got pride
I am not a slave, I got pride
6 years ago

Reforms should Start from Emir’s father private office.

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago

Qatar needs laws and stringent enforcement of these laws to protect workers from exploitation; guidelines and vetting of recruitment agencies should also be strengthened further. Personally … leaving aside the fact that Qatar’s summer heat and cultural sensitivities might damper the World Cup as we know it…it still does not disqualify it from hosting the tournament. On bribery claims … well … until concrete proof is made available and not just suspicion without proof … the question of whether Qatar should be stripped of their right to host the tournament should be put to rest. Blatter’s comment is nevertheless wrong. FIFA is a partner along with the host country and to say they are detached is totally wrong.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Parwaiz Win

If you were a betting man, do you think that the Americans will come back with charges?

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymouse

Personally .. i think all this investigation is just to hoodwink the public into believing they are investigating bribery and etc claims. Nobody really wants to open Pandora’s box because it will most likely effect past..present and future hosts.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Parwaiz Win

why would the Americans care? Fifa and soccer are nothing to them, it isn’t like it is the Olynpics or something.

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymouse

I think the World Cup is bigger than the Olympics. And did America not host the World Cup in 88 ?

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Parwaiz Win

Bigger than the Olympics? Not to Americans. It is still a quaint sport with a whiff of the foreign and effeminate about it. Most I know still consider it a sport fit only for children.

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymouse

Fortunately … America and Americans donot represent the other 6.6 billion people who make up our world 🙂

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Parwaiz Win

Don’t disagree with you, I’m just pointing out that soccerball is not such a sacred cow to the Americans and that there would be much less hesitation at investigating/prosecuting wrongdoing by FIFA. From time to time it is good to have outsiders who are not beholden to the system – like in the case of FIFA/Qatari/Russian corruption investigations.

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymouse

I see where you are coming from but I also believe the World Cup for Qatar is not purely only a sporting event but also politically significant. That said … Qatar currently is of strategic interest to America and somehow I have a feeling … even the US will not pursue the investigation with vigor.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

Blatter is completely wrong and you are all mad to say otherwise. The responsibility lies clearly with the Government of Qatar, a government that devised the Kafala – a system devised knowingly and purposely to FACILITATE the exploitation of migrant workers by contractors and thus to achieve a massing saving on the true cost of the development of Qatar. The noble words and crocodile tears of the Qatari state at the fate of the migrant workers fool nobody – the Kafala functions exactly as planned and FIFA have been told often enough by bodies such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for it to have sunk in by now.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

By awarding the WC to a country FIFA is endorsing that country. Will he take the WC to Israel and say the persecution and killing of Palestinans is nothing to do with FIFA we are just organizing a football tournament, (to make ourselves very rich), please blame the companies that supply the bullets.

Such nonsense from this despicable corrupt man.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

If you’re going 2 screen countries based on there moral conduct. Then basically u got wt 3 countries in the world that qualify?

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

If it is not his and FIFA’s responsibility then why has he been worried so much about all the bad publicity, probably it hurts and he knows it so well and the damage it does to him and his organization

KK
KK
6 years ago

laws , what ‘laws’….?

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