Qatar 2022

Union chief wants action on Qatar

November 1, 2013
By Stephan Uersfeld, Germany Correspondent

The 2022 World Cup organising committee has rejected claims by the chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) that workers on construction sites are still working in terrible conditions.

Protestors in London hold up a banner complaining about the abuse of workers in Qatar.
GettyImagesProtestors in London hold up a banner complaining about the abuse of workers in Qatar.

In an interview with German broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung, DGB chairman Michael Sommer said: "They [the workers] are still tormented. They still die."

Sommer's statements, over a month after it was revealed that several foreign workers had lost their lives on building sites in Qatar, led to a swift reply from the tournament's organisers.

A spokesperson told the German news agency SID that the progress they have made "is not part of the media coverage" seen in recent weeks and that there are "many positive examples and initiatives" but long-term improvements will take time.

"We don't want a quick shot that falls apart when the media circus wanders off in 2023. We want sustainable changes that improve the lives of the guest workers in Qatar," he said.

Sommer plans to up the pressure on FIFA, in a coordinated move with the German Football Association (DFB) and he has already sent a letter to the union leaders in countries which have a seat in the Executive Committee.  

"It can't be that a country that treats their workers like slaves hosts the World Cup," the letter read according to SID. "The decision was obviously made on a questionable basis.

"I ask you to get in contact with your domestic Football Association to inform them about the inhuman working conditions [in Qatar] and to encourage an increased engagement to take the World Cup away from Qatar if effective measures to end the exploitation [of the workers] are not taken immediately."

At the same time, DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach has contacted all 25 FIFA executive members, urging an appeal to Qatar to either allow the minimum standard of the International Labour Organization (ILA) and abolish unfree labour as well as allow Unions or "have the World Cup taken away from them", as Sommer told the paper.

"Niersbach and I have agreed that we both mobilise our people. We have set ourselves a time frame of a maximum of six weeks. Then we will review our results of our action and have a go at FIFA," Sommer said.

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