Doha (AFP) – Qatar World Cup 2022 organisers, under fire over labour conditions, said Tuesday they will allow international trade union inspections of stadium sites from next year.
An agreement has been reached with the global Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) group for joint inspections of construction and accommodation sites.
“Signing this partnership with BWI is a major step for the Supreme Committee which demonstrates our commitment to the health and safety of our workers,” Hassan Al-Thawadi, head of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said in a statement.
The inspections will begin in January 2017, said the statement.
The BWI represents more than 300 trade unions with 12 million members globally, according to its website.
The confederation has been critical of Qatar in the past urging it to stop abuse of workers. Last year it stated that proposed reforms do not go far enough.
Ambet Yuson, BWI’s general secretary, said the agreement was an important step to “ensure workers’ safety on projects directly related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup”.
“We will get access to worksites and conduct labour inspections which are important preventive mechanisms against work-place accidents,” said Yuson.
The union and the supreme committee will also form a joint working group that will report on the inspections.
These reports will be “independent” and released to the public, added the statement.
Tuesday’s announcement was immediately backed by FIFA.
Secretary general, Fatma Samoura, who visited Qatar last week to view progress on the 2022 tournament, said football’s governing body was “very pleased”.
“Safeguarding human and labour rights is of key importance to FIFA,” she said in a statement.
“This marks another milestone towards ensuring decent and safe working conditions at FIFA World Cup stadium construction sites in Qatar.”
It comes as Qatar prepares to dramatically increase the number of labourers working on World Cup projects from around 10,000 to more than 30,000 over the next year as construction work on the venues for the tournament increases.
Since being awarded the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has faced criticism over its treatment of migrant labourers from unions and human rights’ groups.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International accused Qatar of using “forced labour” at a World Cup site, the Khalifa International Stadium.
Last month it was announced that Anil Kumar Pasman, a 29-year-old Nepalese labourer, had died after being struck by a lorry at the Al-Wakrah stadium, the first “work-related” fatality announced by Qatar World Cup organisers.
Qatar though has denied claims of human rights abuse against workers.
The gas-rich emirate is in the process of introducing several labour reforms.
Last year it brought in the Wage Protection System, which ensures workers receive their salary on time.
In October Doha announced it was establishing a panel, with a judge as its head, to oversee labour disputes.
Next month, it is expected to announce the end of its much-criticised “kafala” labour practice, which restricts workers’ ability to change jobs and travel, with a contract system.
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