Published: 15/03/2023

Argentina took home the trophy, but the real winner of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was the Government of Qatar. It used the World Cup to promote Qatar as a global sporting venue, welcoming thousands of supporters from around the world.

This despite highly critical reports from Amnesty International and participating football squads asking questions about the denial of rights, especially to construction workers.

And what was the reality for the thousands of migrant workers brought in to build the stadia and to work in hospitality during the event? Appalling living conditions, unpaid wages and for thousands injury and even death on construction sites.

The IUF’s position was clear from the moment that Qatar was announced as the venue. There is no freedom of association in Qatar, there are no trade unions, there is no collective bargaining. Without these key enabling rights, Qatar’s ratification in the run-up to the World Cup of other ILO core Conventions was window dressing. Yes, there was some progress. A minimum wage was established and the kafala system, the mechanism to tie workers to their employers, was abolished; however, other laws remained in place to control workers. Unless workers are free to join unions of their choosing and be represented by the union in collective bargaining, their rights will continue to be denied.

We must learn from Qatar: no deals with governments that deny workers access to their fundamental rights and no deals with state-controlled unions in the hope that they will become democratic. The price is too high, as such approaches risk the credibility of the trade union movement to defend workers around the word.

The IUF is committed to working with our sister Global Unions to drive this change.  On the eve of the FIFA 73rd Congress, we are joining sister Global Unions in calling on the Government of Qatar to ratify ILO Conventions 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) and 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949). We are further calling on FIFA and the Government of Qatar to recognize the exploitation and physical harm suffered by workers since 2010 and to use the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Legacy Fund to provide remedy for the abuses of migrant workers and their families.

Please click here: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: No legacy without trade union rights to read the full statement in English (also available in French, German and Spanish).

Neither the Qatari government nor FIFA are delivering on their lofty promises. It is time that past abuses of workers are recognized and remedied, and that the human rights of workers to associate and bargaining is recognized, so that those who remain in Qatar can collectively participate in shaping their futures and offset abuses.
Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary