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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Trade union sues FIFA for not protecting Qatar’s workers

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Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Reem Saad/Doha News

A Dutch trade union has filed a lawsuit against FIFA for allegedly failing to demand labor reforms for workers in Qatar.

FIFA has been summoned to appear in a commercial court in Zurich, the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) said in a statement yesterday.

The claim is supported by the Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC) and the Bangladesh Building and Wood Workers Federation (BBWWF).

FNV has 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.”

FIFA headquarters. Credit: MCaviglia/Wikimedia

Additionally, FNV has requested that the court mandate FIFA safeguard the rights of construction workers in the run-up to the World Cup by insisting adequate reforms are implemented in Qatar.

The FNV, which represents 1.1 million workers in the Netherlands and overseas, had first warned of legal action in October.

At the time, it said it was filing a lawsuit on behalf of a Bangladeshi man who worked in Qatar.

Setting precedent

The man worked as an unskilled laborer here and is now a member of the FNV trade union.

He was fired before the end of his contract and said he is in debt in his home country due to recruitment fees.

The union said at the time that it was seeking 10,000 Swiss Francs (approximately QR37,000) in compensation and damages for 31-year-old Nadim Shariful Alam.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Lance Cenar

Though the amount is relatively small, the Guardian said a victory could “open the door” for hundreds of thousands of other blue-collar workers to file legal claims against FIFA.

The cost “could run into tens of millions of pounds and further damage the credibility of a tournament,” the newspaper added.

For its part, FIFA has stressed the need to uphold worker welfare in Qatar.

FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura. Credit: SCDL

During a visit here last month, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura conceded that the nation faces “several challenges” with regards to human rights.

But she added that such issues are “everywhere you go” and that Qatar was no exception.

Qatar reforms

News of the lawsuit comes just days before Qatar introduces changes to a law governing the employment of expats in the country.

The legislation, which has received a mix reaction at home and abroad, will make it easier for some residents to change jobs and leave the country.

Khalifa Stadium mess hall. Credit: Peter Kovessy/Doha News

But it stops short of abolishing the need for an exit permit or no objection certificate for expats.

Meanwhile, authorities recently announced that it will allow international trade union workers to help inspect World Cup construction sites for one year.

Starting in January, members of Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) will accompany Qatar tournament organizers during these visits.

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