BWI signs landmark deal to carry out safety inspections
BUILDING workers finally won the right to inspect Qatar’s World Cup construction sites yesterday in a bid to stop the tide of deaths of migrant workers.
Union federation Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) in Doha, allowing for joint labour and accommodation inspections from January.
BWI general secretary Ambet Yuson hailed the agreement as “an important step to build on the mechanisms currently in place which ensure workers’ safety on projects directly related to the 2022 Fifa World Cup.”
He said BWI would work with the SC to review health and safety training and conduct workplace inspections “which are important preventive mechanisms against workplace accidents.”
The joint inspections will initially focus on projects that are being built by multinational companies that are headquartered in countries where BWI currently has representation — currently Austria, Belgium, Italy, India, and Cyprus.
SC secretary-general Hassan al-Thawadi said the memorandum “demonstrates our commitment to the health and safety of our workers.”
The two parties started talks on the deal in March 2014. Over the next 12 months the number of workers on the eight World Cup construction sites is expected to surge to 36,000.
The Doha deal follows a similar one with Russia earlier this year, which has already resulted in 10 inspections of sites for the 2018 World Cup.
Dietmar Schaefers, chair of the BWI’s decade-old Sports Campaign Group, welcomed the “positive step,” saying he hoped “many others will follow their lead for future mega-events.”
But British construction union Ucatt, a BWI affiliate, sounded a warning note.
While agreeing that “this has to be seen as progress in the fight against the kafala system of modern-day slavery,” acting general secretary Brian Rye said: “Such news must always be welcomed with reservations until the extent and nature of the inspections becomes clear.
“The egregious kafala system of employment, which is an affront to human dignity and has no place in a civilised country, has been in place for a long time without the Qatari authorities blinking an eye at world opprobrium.
“What now has changed? And will the system be demolished or will the BWI be subject to an elaborate PR exercise? Ucatt hopes not.”
And fellow construction union Unite, with which Ucatt is due to merge from January 1, also agreed that “there is still a lot more to be done and a lot more hard work ahead.”
Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Unite has said consistently football is a beautiful game and those who make major sporting events possible by their hard labour deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.