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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Swiss court rules in FIFA’s favor over Qatar labor lawsuit


Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Shrief Fadl/Flickr

A commercial court in Zurich has rejected a lawsuit against FIFA that accused the body of failing to project migrant workers in Qatar.

The legal action was filed against FIFA last month by Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV).

It was supported by the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC) and the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation (BBWWF).

FIFA headquarters. Credit: MCaviglia/Wikimedia

FNV asked the court to rule against FIFA for selecting Qatar as 2022 World Cup host before first demanding assurances about “fundamental human and labor rights of migrant construction workers, including the abolition of the kafala system.”

The union, which represents 1.1 million workers in the Netherlands and overseas, filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Bangladeshi man who worked in Qatar.

He was fired before the end of his contract and ended up in debt in his home country due to recruitment fees.

FNV sought only QR37,000 in compensation and damages for 31-year-old Nadim Shariful Alam.

But a victory could have encouraged hundreds of thousands of other blue-collar workers to file legal claims against FIFA.


FIFA hailed the Swiss court’s decision, saying it takes working conditions and human rights issues in Qatar “very seriously.”

In a statement yesterday, it added:

“FIFA monitors the situation very closely and, as recently stated by President Infantino, will continue to urge the Qatari authorities to ensure safe and decent working conditions for construction workers.”

The organization also pointed out new developments in terms of labor rights in Qatar over the past few years.

These include the establishment of worker welfare standards, an independent auditing system and plans to allow a global trade union to inspect worker accommodation this year.

Workers on Khalifa stadium renovation. Credit: SCDL

However, these reforms only apply to the fraction of blue-collar workers in Qatar who are on specific World Cup projects, such as building the stadiums.

They do not apply to the hundreds of thousands of other expats working on major infrastructure projects ahead of 2022.

For its part, FNV expressed disappointment in the ruling.

“We regret this decision very much, because it leaves migrant workers out in the cold,” it said in a statement yesterday.

But the group added that it remains committed to the rights of Qatar workers and is now planning their “next steps” in this regard.


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