ITUC OnLine – October 11, 2013

ITUC OnLine is produced by the International Trade Union Conferation


New Structure to Strengthen Democratic and Independent Trade Unionism in the Arab Countries

New “FIFA” Laws Strip World Cup Workers’ Rights in Russia

Sixth World Day for Decent Work to Focus on Building Workers’ Power

Global Dispute Over Qatar 2022 World Cup Needs Immediate Settlement to Save Lives

Trade Unions Offer FIFA Joint Inspections in Qatar to Address Abuses of Workers


New Structure to Strengthen Democratic and Independent Trade Unionism in the Arab Countries

Brussels, 11 October 2013 (ITUC OnLine):  At the request of 17 national trade union centres from the Arab region (in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine Tunisia and Yemen), the ITUC General Council meeting in Brussels (9-11 October) has endorsed the process of creating a new structure for the Arab countries.  The founding instruments of the new structure will be submitted to the forthcoming 3rd ITUC World Congress in Berlin for adoption in conformity with the ITUC Constitution.

Considering the grave challenges which face the democratic and independent trade union movement in the Arab world and the urgent need to respond to these, the General Council gave its support to this new ITUC structure, which will give immediate priority to tackling frequent and massive violations of fundamental liberties, including trade union rights, to defending workers in the context of growing poverty and unemployment and to fighting against social injustice, which particularly affects women, young people and the poorest, including migrant workers.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow welcomed the decision, saying “Trade unions are at the forefront of the fierce and long struggle which is taking place across the Arab world, which sets democrats and progressives against authoritarian and retrograde forces.  The trade unionists of the Arab World have expressed their urgent need for a specific space to better unify their forces and put in place a common strategy.  The ITUC General Council has today expressed its full solidarity with their struggle in favour of democratic, progressive and independent trade unionism in this part of the world.” 

“This new sub-regional structure will help us project a strong and unified voice in our ongoing struggle to defend and build democratic, progresssive and independent trade unions in the Arab countries, » said Houcine Abbassi, General Secretary of the UGTT Tunisia and Acting President of the new Arab sub-regional structure of the ITUC during its transitional period up to the ITUC Congress.

The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 315 national affiliates.

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New “FIFA” Laws Strip World Cup Workers’ Rights in Russia

Brussels, 9 October 2013 (ITUC OnLine):  The ITUC is backing its Russian affiliates, FNPR and KTR, in opposing exemptions from Russian labour law for the 2018 World Cup, which would deprive tens of thousands of Russian and migrant workers of basic legal protections  covering working hours , overtime and its remuneration, weekend and night work and a range of other standards.  The law, which was adopted by the Russian Duma this summer, would apply until the end of 2018 and effectively allow FIFA and its partners, including Russian and multinational companies, to set working conditions outside the framework of Russian law.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The World Cup is becoming notorious for exploitation of workers, in Qatar, in Brazil and now with this unprecedented new law in Russia.  The Russian case contradicts FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s assertion last week that ‘FIFA cannot interfere with the labour rights of any country’.  Governments should stand up to the commercial interests which make huge gains out of the World Cup at great cost to local workers and the community.  FIFA itself needs to take responsibility to ensure that that the people who deliver the facilities and services are protected, not exploited. ”

With several construction workers having already lost their lives building new stadiums in St Petersburg and Kazan, Russian unions are concerned that removing worker protections will lead to more exploitation, deaths and injuries.  In 2012, in result of the Tatarstan prosecutor-organised audit, half of 50 subcontractors at the Kazan site were penalised for failing to provide proper health and safety equipment and training.  According to media, three workers died building the St Petersburg stadium and several more were injured, while two fatalities have been recorded by the labour inspection in Kazan.

In Brazil, President Dilma Rouseff has intervened to veto a provision in the 2014 “World Cup Law” which would have exempted legal provisions on payment of wages to “volunteers”. “Fair play for only the 90 minutes of a football match is not enough.  FIFA and its local World Cup Organising Committees should ensure fair play for the very people who deliver this iconic sporting event,” said Burrow.

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Sixth World Day for Decent Work to Focus on Building Workers’ Power

7 October 2013 (ITUC Online): From dawn in the Pacific islands to sunset on the west coast of the Americas, workers from more than 100 countries are taking part in a global day of action to demand stronger government action for economic recovery, job creation, decent working conditions and full respect for workers’ rights.

World Day for Decent Work 2013, co-ordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), highlights youth unemployment, which is as high as 60% in some countries, and a whole generation of young people faces exclusion from the labour market.  This is a social and economic time-bomb. 

This year again, unions from across the world will be calling in unison for social justice and decent jobs for all. With governments still unwilling or unable to tame the dominance of global finance and multinationals over peoples’ lives, the only way to get the economy back on track and serving the interests of the many rather than the few is by building workers’ power.

The latest ITUC global union poll shows overwhelming public support for laws that protect the right to union membership and collective bargaining; however, tens of millions of workers are denied these rights due to deficient laws, poor enforcement and anti-union practices by employers including some of the world’s biggest multinational companies.

Organising new members is the most crucial task facing the union movement worldwide, and the World Day for Decent Work is a great opportunity to spread the union message far and wide, to reach out to others to help them join their union and to support global solidarity actions for working people.

“Workers’ rights are not negotiable yet a decent work deficit exists in varying degrees in most nations throughout supply chains and for the majority of women and migrants. People feel abandoned by their government as they prioritise business interests over the concerns of working people and their families,” said Sharan Burrow.

To see the special website for World Day for Decent Work click here

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Global Dispute Over Qatar 2022 World Cup Needs Immediate Settlement to Save Lives

FIFA ‘courtesy visit’ will not help workers workers’ rights

Brussels, 4 October 2013 (ITUC OnLine): FIFA’s offer of only a ‘courtesy visit’ to the Emir of Qatar is totally inadequate and fails to put in place any plan to stop more workers dying.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said this is a global dispute over fundamental workers’ rights and modern day slavery in Qatar which must be resolved immediately.

In the two years since the ITUC first outlined to FIFA the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, an average of 600 workers have died there. The ITUC estimates 4000 workers will die in Qatar before the start of the World Cup in 2022 if no action is taken.

“Workers’ from countries including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and increasingly Africa are used as forced labour, denied the right to join a union, live in squalid living conditions and often are not paid the wages they are promised. Scores of healthy young men are dying. This web of deadly practices draws in international companies, the Government of Qatar and FIFA,” said Sharan Burrow.

“Qatar’s damage limitation exercise will not resolve the problem of forced labour in Qatar. The promise to recruit inspectors to police defective laws which cannot even be enforced under their kefala migration system will not stop workers dying in Qatar. Nor will engaging a law firm for an ‘independent review’ make any real difference.”

“The settlement of this global dispute is dependent on actions by FIFA and the political will of the Qatari authorities, which are still absent. FIFA’s offer is an insult to the bereaved families,” added Sharan Burrow.

The legal and political solutions that will give workers their rights, and create the conditions for a safe World Cup in 2022 are available to the Government of Qatar.

  • End the kefala system so workers can change employers, and freely leave the country;
  • Pass national laws allowing freedom of association for migrant workers giving them the right to form and join trade unions and collectively bargain for fair wages and safe work;
  • Overhauling the grievance procedures for labour complaints;
  • Work with international recruitment companies to clean up the mass recruitment of migrant workers.

“FIFA has the power to make workers’ rights a condition of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup. There is still time to rerun the vote to choose a venue which respect workers,” said Sharan Burrow.

Qatar has previous form in promising ‘independent reviews’. Following the Villaggio Mall fire tragedy in Doha Qatar on 28th May 2012, which killed 13 children and 6 adults in the Gympanzee nursery, the Qatar Authorities launched an independent inquiry to identify safety issues into public facilities and construction standards at the mall. Qatar World Cup Organising Committee head Hassan Al-Thawadi promised full disclosure from the inquiry to the bereaved families.

Martin Weekes, father of triplets who died in the Villagio mall fire said, “To this day that report has never been released to the families, their governments or even the Judge trying the case despite personal assurances from Hassan Al Thawadi that he and the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee would get its release. We know that a promise from Qatar for an independent review is just empty words.”

For interviews with Sharan Burrow contact Gemma Swart +32 479 06 41 63

For interviews with Martin Weekes, a former CEO of New Zealand’s stadium in New Zealand’s iconic Eden Park international sports stadium which hosted two Rugby World Cups, and father of triplets killed in the Villagio Mall fire Qatar. Martin worked for six years in Qatar in the property sector.

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Trade Unions Offer FIFA Joint Inspections in Qatar to Address Abuses of Workers

Brussels, 2 October 2013 (ITUC OnLine): The International Trade Union Confederation is putting together a team of experienced inspectors for workplaces and labour camps in Qatar to assess and report on conditions in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

The offer to FIFA, made on the eve of their Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, aims to put in place the conditions for workplace laws and protections to stop the high death rates of workers in Qatar, where 4,000 people could die before a ball is kicked at the 2022 World Cup.

“Labour inspection in Qatar has failed miserably, and the government’s announcement that would put new staff into a system that doesn’t work is futile. FIFA should make it clear to Qatar that the 2022 World Cup cannot take place there if workers’ rights and working standards are not respected. Unions save workers’ lives every day, and FIFA should welcome that expertise being used to good effect in Qatar,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

Workers from South Asia including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and increasingly Africa are recruited to provide labour to build the billion dollar infrastructure and facilities needed for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. Another 500,000 workers are expected to join the 1.2 million currently working and living in hazardous conditions.

“The restrictive visa sponsorship system for all migrant workers in Qatar ties workers to their employers giving them no freedom or independence to speak out about their working conditions without fear. Only by offering workers an independent voice to raise their concerns will we be able to tackle the widespread abuses of workers in Qatar,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC is calling on the FIFA Executive Committee to:

  • Make workers’ rights a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022;
  • Put labour rights and working conditions in Qatar as a standing agenda item on their Executive Committee meeting;
  • Agree to joint investigation of the abuses of labour rights and deaths of workers in Qatar, and reporting the full findings to football fans, public and families of those who died;
  • Monitor the treatment and rights of workers in Qatar and make sure responsible recruitment companies are used to hire workers needed for World Cup jobs.

Building Wood Workers International (BWI), the global union federation representing construction workers, is sending an investigation mission to Qatar on 7 October. The mission will reiterate to the Qatari authorities, construction companies and their sub-contractors their obligations in following international norms and principles of decent work.

“The revelations of working conditions in Qatar over the past week represent only a fraction of abuses facing workers in Qatar. Footballers, construction workers and domestic workers are not able to speak out because their employers hold their passports, work visas and they are not allowed to leave the country without their employers permission,” said Sharan Burrow.

Media Opportunity:

What: BWI together with its Swiss affiliate UNIA will send the message of “Red Card for FIFA, No World Cup without Workers Rights”.

When: 13:30 to 14:00, Thursday October 3 2013

Where: FIFA-Strasse 20 8044 Zurich, Switzerland

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