Staff at Qatar’s World Cup stadiums toil in debt and squalor | Staff’ rights

When the England group arrive at Al Bayt stadium for his or her match in opposition to the USA in simply over two months, they are going to be met by a shocking 60,000-seat area constructed to resemble a nomadic tent.

The stadium, arguably Qatar’s most interesting, will host matches from the opening recreation by way of to the semi-finals. If England win their group and attain that far, they may play 4 video games on the floor.

Simply as spectacular is the pristine park surrounding the stadium. Manicured lawns are dotted with fountains, streams and a lake. Geese play within the cool water. A operating observe winds its means across the stadium passing a variety of immaculate coaching pitches with grass like a placing inexperienced.

A tent-like stadium at dusk seen from across an ornamental pool
Qatar’s 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium is supposed to resemble a Bedouin tent. {Photograph}: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

But the boys who labour day after day within the relentless warmth and humidity to keep up this outstanding inexperienced area – watering the grounds, reducing the grass and painstakingly pulling up weeds by hand – reside in very totally different circumstances.

On the finish of every shift, they’re pushed for 40 minutes to the sting of the desert, the place they’re dropped off at a farm belonging to their employer, Al Sulaiteen Agricultural and Industrial Advanced (SAIC). Inside, amongst rows of large greenhouses, they return to their rooms in small rundown cabins.

Some home three or 4 staff in single beds, others 5 – 6 in bunks, however all these considered by the Guardian had been windowless, cramped and soiled. Towels draped between the higher and decrease bunks present what little privateness there’s. Water bottles, cooking utensils and private belongings are crammed underneath the beds. Garments grasp on strains strung throughout the partitions. The camp is as squalid as any this journalist has seen in 9 years of reporting from Qatar.

Fifa and the native World Cup organising physique, the Supreme Committee for Supply and Legacy (SC), have repeatedly claimed that the event has been the catalyst to rework the residing and dealing circumstances of low-wage labourers, in Qatar and throughout the area, however the Guardian’s findings expose critical shortcomings within the reform course of.

Staff employed on World Cup-related tasks are speculated to take pleasure in superior therapy in keeping with stringent “staff’ welfare requirements”, however in interviews this summer season with staff employed by SAIC at three World Cup stadiums – Al Bayt, Al Janoub and Ahmad Bin Ali – the Guardian heard allegations of a number of breaches of those requirements.

All the employees interviewed, who’re from Bangladesh, Nepal and India, say they had been pressured to pay unlawful charges to brokers in their very own international locations to safe their jobs.

“I paid 300,000 [Bangladeshi taka],” says one employee, the equal of practically £2,700, an enormous sum in Bangladesh. “Some pay a little bit extra, some rather less, however everybody pays.”

The native organising committee of the World Cup launched a scheme in 2017 to encourage its contractors to repay their staff’ recruitment charges. The committee stated SAIC participates within the scheme and has reimbursed £29,000 to staff employed on contracts it has awarded SAIC. But SAIC staff interviewed by the Guardian, who will not be working underneath a contract for the World Cup committee, say they’ve obtained nothing.

Two rows of shabby portable cabins with few windows
Cabins on the camp housing staff employed at a number of World Cup stadiums in Qatar. {Photograph}: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

Many of the interviewed staff are incomes a fundamental wage of 1,000 riyals (£225) a month, the equal of about £1 an hour. Meals and lodging are offered by SAIC. The wage is the authorized minimal in Qatar, however staff say they’re struggling to repay their recruitment charges, and related money owed, and ship cash to their households on this wage.

“The wage could be very low, it’s very tough. I can earn this in India,” says one employee who, after deducting his prices in Qatar, is ready to ship about £160 to his spouse and 4 youngsters every month.

Within the face of relentless criticism of its therapy of low-wage migrant staff, Qatar introduced a new regulation in 2020 which promised to take away the abusive kafala system – underneath which staff had been unable to alter jobs – however the staff say SAIC refuses to launch them.

“The corporate gained’t give [permission to leave]. You may solely change for those who go residence, cancel your visa and apply once more,” says one employee.

One other laughs on the suggestion, saying: “If we might change jobs, everybody would depart!”

A room cluttered with personal possessions. Cloths hanging from string offer the only privacy for the bunk beds
One of many rooms at a camp housing staff employed at World Cup stadiums in Qatar. {Photograph}: Pete Pattisson/The Guardian

The World Cup organising committee stated: “We recognise that the SAIC staff should still face challenges from their employers.” It inspired SAIC staff to make use of its grievance hotline to boost considerations.

Through the hottest summer season months, the employees stand up earlier than daybreak and head out to the Al Bayt stadium – which price £620m to construct. By seven, the warmth is insufferable, however Kabir* works on, watering the grass and timber.

He didn’t know he could be working at a World Cup web site when he got here to Qatar, however it doesn’t appear to curiosity him. “I’m not excited in regards to the World Cup,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t assume we are able to even go contained in the stadium.”

The one factor that basically considerations him is his wage. His household is determined by his meagre earnings, however most of his wages go in direction of shopping for again the jewelry he gave to a moneylender as collateral so he might afford the £1,170 charge for his job.

“Qatar is a wealthy nation, however they’re paying so little for the work we do,” says Kabir. “You may overlook about good pay right here.”

The SC stated it had “stayed true to its dedication of utilising the World Cup to ship lasting social adjustments for our staff, to enhance their working and residing circumstances”.

It cited a variety of steps which have been taken to boost the working and residing requirements of staff, together with improved lodging, measures to minimise staff’ publicity to warmth, laws to introduce a minimal wage and permit staff to alter jobs, and a monitoring system to make sure firms adjust to the regulation.

“Particular person circumstances of wrongdoing don’t current a full and correct image of the adjustments which have taken place in Qatar, the place hundreds of firms have adjusted their work practices to adjust to the brand new legal guidelines and rules,” it added.

England’s Soccer Affiliation stated: “Any questions regarding the stadiums for use throughout Qatar 2022 needs to be directed to event organisers Fifa.” It pointed to an earlier assertion by which it stated: “We consider that there’s proof of considerable progress being made by Qatar in relation to staff’ rights. Nevertheless, we recognise there’s nonetheless extra to be performed.”

Fifa stated it was in touch with the SC concerning the allegations raised by SAIC staff. It added: “Along with the in depth measures already launched, which purpose to assist staff concerned within the preparation and supply of the World Cup, Fifa has actively pushed for the implementation of broader labour reforms that apply to all firms and tasks throughout the nation and profit all staff in Qatar.”

SAIC didn’t reply to requests for remark.

* Title has been modified to guard his id

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