Today we are publishing Impactt’s report on the implementation Workers’ Welfare Standards (WWS) on sites being developed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) appointed Impactt as External Compliance Monitor in April 2016. Our job has been to monitor compliance by contractors, subcontractors and the SC itself with the WWS, provide advice and publish this report of our findings. For clarity, we should say that our work has not encompassed health and safety on site, and we are delighted that SC are working with Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the international trade union confederation, to monitor and report in this area.
Ensuring labour standards in the Middle East is never easy. The region’s reliance on migrant workers from poorer countries means there is a high risk of labour abuses. Laws are often not in compliance with ILO Conventions. It is unsurprising therefore that researchers and campaigners have identified significant abuses at many of the high profile construction sites across the region, including in Qatar, and in relation to workers on Tournament projects. Concerns have focused particularly in the areas of recruitment fees, employers retaining workers’ passports and identity documents, contract substitution, late payment of wages, differential wages depending on nationality of the worker and poor working and living conditions.
The SC has made a considerable effort in developing its standards and putting in place monitoring systems. Has this been enough to ensure that the jobs for those working to build the Tournament experience decent working conditions?
We have tried to answer this question by carrying out audits of 3 main contractors and 7 sub-contractors against the WWS over a 9 month period. We selected which contractors to audit, and which workers to interview, independently. Our methodology prioritises worker testimony, with as much time spent engaging with workers as talking with management and checking documents. Each contractor’s audit was carried out by a 2-person team and lasted at least 3 days. We also piloted a worker satisfaction survey to put some flesh on the bones of workers experience.
The answer is that there is solid progress, but not yet perfection. Impactt’s First Annual public report provides in-depth details of the non-compliances we found, and the steps which SC and contractors have taken to address these. To summarise, our initial audits found relatively high levels of compliance in contracts and administration, end of service procedures, health and safety management, and management of workers’ personal documents, living and transportation.
Contractors demonstrated the lowest levels of compliance in due diligence, recruitment policies to ensure fair treatment, and completion some aspects of worker induction. We also found low levels of compliance in complex areas such as worker representation, treatment of workers, disciplinary procedures and grievance mechanisms. Unsurprisingly, subcontractors further down the chain tend to have more severe and numerous issues than main contractors.
What is more positive is that when we re-visited 7 contractors in January 2017 we found significant progress on issues such as worker induction, medical care and food in accommodation and end-of-service procedures. But contractors are still in the early stages of addressing some of the more complex challenges. These include setting up robust dialogue mechanisms (Workers’ Welfare Forums), providing workers with adequate residence permits and reimbursing recruitment fees to workers who provide evidence of payment.
SC’s efforts are clearly bearing fruit – and as their journey continues (and as the number of workers on-site peaks over the next two years) we have made a number of recommendations. I’ll highlight 3 here. We encourage SC to focus on ensuring that:
- contractors, rather than workers, pay the costs of recruitment.
- workers’ voices inform every aspect of improvement efforts
- contractors run effective worker representation systems (Worker Welfare Forums) and grievance mechanisms
Finally, we encourage SC to collaborate with national, regional and international stakeholders for greater reach and impact on issues that lie outside its direct control.