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‘Inhuman’ Conditions for Workers Overshadow Qatar World Cup, Unions Say

By Vivian Salama
May 30, 2011 7:01 PM EDT

The International Trade Union Confederation and Building Workers International urged FIFA and the Qatari government to prove that migrant workers won’t be subject to “inhuman” conditions as the Persian Gulf nation begins to build stadiums in anticipation of the 2022 World Cup.

In a report released before the June 1-17 International Labor Conference in Geneva, the groups highlight the working and living conditions of migrant labor being used to build nine stadiums in 10 years as Qatar seeks to be the first Arab country to host the World Cup. The statement calls upon FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Qatar’s FIFA delegate Mohamed bin Hammam to rectify “unsafe and unregulated working conditions.”

“A huge migrant labor force, with very little rights, no access to any unions, very unsafe practices and inhuman living conditions will be literally putting their lives on the line to deliver the 2022 World Cup,” Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, said in a statement today.

Qatar beat the U.S., Australia, South Korea and Japan to win the 2022 World Cup at a ceremony hosted in Zurich in December. The country will invest $88 billion in infrastructure for the games, Enrico Grino, Qatar National Bank’s assistant general manager and head of project finance, said on May 16.

As part of its bid, Qatar pledged to build nine stadiums and refurbish three others. Each will use solar-powered cooling technology in a country where summer temperatures rise as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Their ability to deliver the World Cup is totally dependent on severe exploitation of migrant labor, which we believe to be barely above forced labor conditions,” Ambet Yuson, general secretary of Building Workers International, said in the statement.

Most migrant workers in Qatar come from India, Pakistan and Nepal, according to the report. The two unions said they will write to FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Qatar’s FIFA delegate, Mohamed bin Hammam, asking the organization to explain how it will protect workers building the stadiums.

The ITUC is the world’s largest trade union, representing 175 million workers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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