“For nine months, we were made to work for more than 12 hours a day, without a day off. In order to keep our hours hidden, we were prevented from clocking in and clocking out. I was on the verge of going insane,” said an Indian worker at the Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence, Doha, a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 partner hotel.
LONDON - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ("Qatar World Cup”) hotel managers exploited and violated the rights of thousands of migrant workers from Africa and Asia, according to a new investigation released today by Equidem and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF).
The groups detail significant labour and human rights violations they found at most of the hotels that employ an estimated 9,000-10,000 workers who will host World Cup teams, spectators and corporate sponsors later this year.
Field investigators - themselves migrant workers – interviewed 80 workers over two years. Women and men from Africa and Asia working at World Cup hotels describe—in their own words—the sexual harassment, nationality- and gender-based discrimination, wage theft, health and safety risks, sudden loss of employment, and illegal recruitment charges they faced in their work. Qatar’s laws and policies fuel these rights violations: Workers are denied the fundamental right to associate, subjected to intensive surveillance and employer control, and fear retaliation—including employer-instigated deportation—for defending their rights and interests.
The report details widespread systematic abuse and exploitation, including:
- Wage theft, including unilateral cuts in pay of up to 75% and unpaid, forced overtime.
- Nationality-based wage discrimination at all 32 of the hotels designated as FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 hospitality partners.
- Widespread reports of coworkers and guests subjecting women workers to gender based violence and harassment, including inappropriate touching and sexual propositions.
- Stolen COVID premium pay: workers said they were promised double wages to work with COVID-19 positive people, but those wages were stolen, and workers were never paid for assuming serious health risks.
“Four months before the 2022 FIFA World Cup is played in Qatar, migrant workers in the World Cup partner hotels report a pattern of gender based violence and harassment, discrimination, wage theft, and fear of retaliation if they come forward.” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, GLJ-ILRF Executive Director. “These reports expose the failed model of corporate social responsibility models (“CSR”)- where corporations have sole responsibility to monitor and enforce their own interpretations of labour standards. We invite an immediate dialogue with FIFA and its partner hotels about the steps necessary to raise and maintain workplace conditions at or above international labor standards and the fundamental role of labour and human rights organizations in this process. Without this, hotel workers will continue to face daily violations of international labor standards and the players and fans who stay at these hotels will be complicit in an extractive business model that puts profit over people.”
The report is based on research conducted from February 2020 to July 2022 and documents significant labour and human rights violations in 13 out of 17 of FIFA’s partner hotel groups. These international brands employ thousands of migrant workers from countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda.
Migrant workers are at significant risk of discrimination and exploitation because of the extreme power imbalances between migrant workers and employers in Qatar. The nationality-based hierarchies in Qatar are entrenched by policies that deny migrant workers paths to long-term residency or permanent citizenship. In this context, migrant workers require forums for collective action to safeguard their rights and promote their interests.
“Despite an upsurge in rights-protection initiatives by FIFA and Qatar over the last two years, workers across most World Cup hotels have reported a troubling pattern of abuse and fears of reprisal for speaking out. Our research indicates that thousands of migrant workers at World Cup hotels are owed compensation for illegal recruitment charges, unpaid wages and overtime, and other harms suffered in Qatar,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. “With less than four months until kick-off, the Qatar World Cup is facing an exploitation crisis that neither FIFA, Qatar, nor their hotel partners can hide behind audits and expert partnerships.”
Equidem and GLJ-ILRF call on FIFA, Qatar authorities and their World Cup partners to ensure hotel workers who have faced discrimination, exploitation and other harms are provided a remedy consistent with international recognized responsible business and human rights practices.
Equidem and GLJ-ILRF further call for the establishment of a genuinely independent Migrant Worker Centre in Qatar as a necessary step towards advancing freedom of association and creating a modern, rights-respecting labour system in the country.
“A top-down, heavily state-controlled labour reform process is inhibiting efforts to improve respect for migrant worker rights at Qatar World Cup hotels, despite the critical help of international trade union bodies, UN agencies and other experts,” Qadri said. “Qatar must respect its international obligations to respect freedom of association rights so that migrant workers have the space to safely voice concerns about their treatment.”
Over 800 workers were contacted in an attempt to understand their experience but only 80 replied, which suggests the exploitation and abuse is widely underreported.
Read the full report here.
Equidem and GLJ-ILRF will host a press conference today at 2pm BST/ 9am ET to offer more detail and answer questions about the report. Register here.
Equidem: Amanda Sperber: asperber [at] equidem.org // +1 914 484 8854
GLJ-IRLF: Rachel Cohen, racohen78 [at] gmail.com // +1 917-370-8464
Equidem is a human rights and labour rights charity working globally and locally to promote the rights of marginalised communities, accountability for serious violations, and building the human rights movement. Our team of experts and field investigators expose injustice, provide solutions for the most intractable human rights challenges and work closely with grassroots and global civil society to empower the individual and the community.
Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) is a new merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labour migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labour rights violations in their supply chains; advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration; and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.