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World Cup Wages Scandal: Qatar Stadium Workers Earn Just 76 Cents an Hour

World Cup Wages Scandal: Qatar Stadium Workers Earn Just 76 Cents an Hour
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

Migrant workers building the first stadium for Qatar's 2022 World Cup have been earning as little as 45p ($0.76) an hour, the Guardian can reveal.

The pay rate appears to be in breach of the tournament organizers' own worker welfare rules and comes despite the Gulf kingdom spending £134 billion ($226 billion) on infrastructure ahead of the competition.

More than 100 workers from some of the world's poorest countries are laboring in ferocious desert heat on the 40,000-seat al-Wakrah stadium, which has been designed by the British architect Zaha Hadid and is due to host a quarter-final.

The problems for the World Cup workers come after the Guardian revealed on Tuesday that migrant laborers who fitted out luxury officesused by Qatar's World Cup organizing committee have not been paid for up to a year and are now living in squalor.

There has been an international outcry over the deaths of hundreds of migrant builders in Qatar in construction accidents and traffic collisions, and from suicides and heart failure. Low pay, late pay and even no pay are now an increasing concern.

Pay slips show they are toiling up to 30 days a month for as little as £4.90 a day. The rates are among the lowest the Guardian found during a week-long investigation into conditions for migrant laborers across Qatar's construction industry, and come despite pledges by the tournament's organizers to make workers' rights "our top priority."

Hadid, whose practice is likely to earn a multimillion-pound fee on the project, said in a joint statement with fellow design firm Aecom that they were "working closely with our clients to ensure that any outstanding issues are resolved."

The pay rates were described as "poverty wages" by the Labour MP Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons culture committee investigating the World Cup bid. "This is not what football, the people's game, is all about. It is about fairness and that includes for the workers," he said.

"How can anybody enjoy watching the 2022 World Cup knowing the people who built the stadiums had to endure these conditions? Qatar should put on hold the construction until we can get these issues sorted out."

Stadium workers also told the Guardian their passports were being held by their manager, in apparent breach of the World Cup organizers' own worker welfare standards, which state: "The contractor shall ensure that all workers have personal possession of their passports and other personal documents."

Withholding passports was identified by the Qatar government's lawyers, DLA Piper, as an abuse of the country's migrant labor sponsorship system that can contribute to conditions of forced labor.

Pay slips for workers on al-Wakrah stadium suggest the contractor is breaching rules on overtime pay and working hours limits set by Qatar's World Cup organizing committee. One laborer was hired on a basic monthly salary of £136 ($230) and worked 64 hours of overtime in April.

He was paid just £29 for the overtime, making the overtime rate 45p an hour. His basic salary, if he worked the maximum 48-hour week allowed, was 64p ($1.08) per hour.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy's worker welfare standards state overtime should be paid at basic wage plus 25% and that the maximum working week should be 60 hours. If the laborer worked on average 16 hours overtime a week as the documents suggest, after a maximum 48 hour week, then he would have worked longer than the allowable maximum of 60 hours.

Another laborer's pay slip shows he worked every day in April, including 38 hours overtime, for a total salary of £33.50 per week, or £4.80 ($8.12) a day.

Qatar is spending about £2.4 billion building eight stadiums for the World Cup.

A spokesman for the committee said: "There are challenges with calculation of overtime pay and hours, and we are working with the contractor to rectify any non-compliance."

Mohamad Ahmad Ali Hussain Hamad, the project manager at Amana Qatar Contracting Company, which employs the workers, said an audit had "identified the need of further clarification with regards to workers' pay slips and we are working with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to clear up the same."

The wages are still slightly higher than in the workers' home countries. Building laborers earn about £3.20 a day in India and about £4.50 in Nepal, where salaries are rising because of a shortage of labor – partly the result of migration to Qatar.

After stadium workers told the Guardian their manager had their passports, the World Cup organizers said: "The supreme committee expressly forbids any contractor to confiscate the passports of its workers."

They said that in the Amana contract, which was under an earlier version of its worker welfare standards, workers were provided with the option of voluntarily, and only with signed consent, handing over their passports to the contractor for safekeeping. "Any involuntary confiscation of a passport, whether at Amana or any other contractor, is expressly forbidden and will be investigated," a supreme committee spokesman said.

Amana said: "There have been no complaints made to the company or the supreme committee about involuntary confiscation of identity documents."

The company also said workers had access to their passports at all times.

Qatar's World Cup bosses have ensured that Amana provide high-quality accommodation for the workers on al-Wakrah stadium. They live in solid and clean three-storey apartment blocks with no more than three beds to a room and with en suite bathrooms in some cases. Three meals a day are laid on, and living rooms are equipped with flatscreen TVs and wireless internet access.

In the block shown to the Guardian there was table tennis, table football and a collection of cricket and football equipment. A domestic worker launders the workers' clothes while they are on shift and there is a suggestion box seeking ideas for improvements.

"This is a model of how serious we are in terms of wellbeing," said Stefan Van Dyke, a member of the Qatar 2022 welfare committee. "Once the worker lives well and eats well, he works well. We had to get the contractors to buy into the process and there is a return on their investment. We are being told that they are seeing a lower rate of absenteeism."

He said persuading contractors to understand the idea of decent housing was not always easy. "Some of the difficulties the contractors have is to visualize the standard [we want]," he said, adding that there was a moral obligation towards workers.

Originally published by The Guardian

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