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Soccer-Qatar sets labour standards to address welfare of World Cup workers

Reuters

By Amena Bakr

DOHA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The committee managing preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup said on Tuesday it would penalise contractors who violated the welfare of its construction workers after the Gulf country came under heavy pressure to reform its workplace practices.

But the measures, which include detailed standards unveiled by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, do not deal with the sponsorship system for migrant workers that a U.N. official said in November was a source of labour abuse.

Pressure on Qatar increased after a report in the UK newspaper The Guardian in September which found that dozens of Nepali workers had died during the summer in Qatar and that labourers were not given enough food and water. Officials from Qatar and Nepal denied the report.

Faced with the challenge of completing big construction and infrastructure projects before the World Cup, Qatar has an increasing number of its estimated 1.8 million foreigners working on projects related to football's showcase event.

The Workers' Welfare Standards states that all contractors and sub-contractors engaged in the delivery of its projects must comply with principles set out in the charter and relevant Qatari laws.

"The committee reserves the right to penalise contractors who are non-compliant, or in extreme cases, terminate its contract with a company that is continually in breach of them," the organising committee said in a statement.

The Supreme Committee said it had worked closely with the International Labour Organisation on the charter, which included more detailed measures on workers' wages and accommodation compared to a guideline charter that was issued by the committee last year.

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To ensure the system was being followed, the committee said progress reports would be made public.

"Progress reports based on the audits are to be made public in order to track progress," it said.

Many sponsors, often labour supply firms or wealthy Qataris who provide workers to businesses for profit, confiscate the passports of guest workers for the duration of their contracts.

There was no mention of the kafala, or sponsorship system, in the committee's statement and it is still unclear if the government is working to abolish the system.

The committee said the labour ministry had also increased the number of trained labour inspectors by 30 percent over the past six months to monitor contractors' compliance.

Qatar had been given two weeks in late January to provide a report to football's world governing body FIFA on how it has improved conditions for labourers.

The report will eventually be presented by FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger to a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels this Thursday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had described the labour rights situation in Qatar as unacceptable.

The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation said the charter fell short of providing workers with the rights they deserve. (Editing by Yara Bayoumy/Rex Gowar)

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