‘We have fallen into a trap’: Qatar’s World Cup dream is a nightmare for hotel staff | Workers’ rights

WFIFA executives are stepping onto the asphalt in Doha this November for the start of the 2022 World Cup, and their next stop will likely be to check-in at one of Qatar’s array of luxury hotels, built to provide the most luxurious backdrop possible. For the biggest sporting event on earth.

Now, one year after the first match, fans who want to emulate the elite sporting lifestyle can head to the FIFA Hospitality website to plan their stay in the host nation. There they can scroll through a catalog of exclusive FIFA approved accommodations, from boutique hotels to five-star resorts.

But behind the scenes at some of these hotels, while guests lounge around the pool or sip cocktails at the bar, migrant hotel workers have claimed they struggle to survive on the £1-an-hour wage.

The Guardian has accommodated or visited seven of the hotels listed on the FIFA Hospitality website and interviewed and spoke to more than 40 workers – employed directly and through subcontractorsA number of allegations of gross violations of workers’ rights and low wages were uncovered. The hotels were not named to protect the identity of the workers who spoke to the Guardian.

many workers They claimed they worked so long hours that some said they hadn’t had a day off in months. As they spent their days surrounded by the most luxurious of places, some workers said they were staying in overcrowded rooms in stifling labor camps. A few workers claimed that their passports had been confiscated. Many said their employers did not allow them to change jobs.

Rooms at the hotels listed on the FIFA Hospitality website cost up to £820 per night when purchased as part of the package.And Almost every worker the Guardian spoke to who worked in housekeeping, security, valet parking, cleaning or gardening said they earned less than £1.25 an hour. Many of them were working on less than £1 an hour.

Workers have made multiple allegations of violations of Qatar’s labor law, indicating shortcomings in Qatar’s labor reforms. They promised to put an end to the abusive working conditions and guaranty The sponsorship system, which means that workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without the consent of their employer.

The workers’ allegations also indicate that FIFA has effectively failed to carry out basic checks on hotels that the Guardian has investigated as having signed its index, in violation of its human rights policy, which requires it to prevent labor abuses linked to its operations.

While most of the workers the Guardian spoke to were being paid in line with the new The minimum wage, which came into effect in March 2021, is still the equivalent of £1 an hour plus a small food and board allowance.

The Guardian also has Payrolls of a single worker working directly in a hotel were seen in the FIFA catalogue, which show that when the minimum wage was introduced, his basic wage of 750 reais (£150) rose to 1,000 reais (£200) a month, but food allowances or For example, the transfer was cut off by the same amount, which means that his salary remained the same.

“Sometimes I ask myself why I came here,” he said. “The World Cup is a big thing and everyone enjoys it, but the way they treat us…we are all tired of it.”

As darkness fell on one of the properties in the FIFA brochure, the guests retired to their homes, leaving David*, a migrant worker from Africa, working near the pool.

A night in a standard hotel room costs more than David earns per month. He is desperate to change jobs but Despite recent government legislation allowing this, he said he’s trapped. “My friends have tried to change jobs but our company is refusing to let them go,” he said. “We have to accept it. Our president does whatever he pleases.”

The hotel has sumptuous suites and a marble-lined lobby, but its private residences are very different: a small room shared with five others in a rundown complex on the edge of Doha.

Ranjit, the security guard, stood on duty nearby, just as he had done for the past 11 hours. Ranjit’s salary comes to about 80p an hour. Until now Five months, he kept nothing. It’s all gone To pay the illegal £1,300 fee he was forced to deliver the recruitment agent back home to secure the job. “It’s a scam,” he said. “Here they suck your blood.”

Some workers at the seven hotels said they were happy with their jobs and the staff accommodations the hotel provides. However, the majority said they felt trapped between the demands of their employers and the need to earn money for their families back home.

In one hotel, a A worker claimed that management would only give bonuses to employees who hand in their passports. It is illegal for employers to keep workers’ passports in Qatar.

Another worker at the hotel said, “We’ve fallen into the trap and we can’t get out of it.”

With 1.2 million fans expected during the World Cup, the hospitality sector can look forward to a profitable tournament.

Few hotels have demonstrated good practices by hiring their staff directly through online advertisements, not through labor agents who often charge extortionate and illegal fees from recruiters, but even on these properties, The Guardian spoke to Employees who received very low wages.

The worst allegations of abuse were by workers who were employed through subcontractors, particularly hotel security guards and garden workers.

At another hotel on FIFA’s website, a Kenyan security guard was about to start his 12-hour shift, which he said stretched over 15 hours when he added travel time to and from his work camp.

If he works all month without a break he earns 2,000 riyals (£400); Much less than he promised when he signed up for the job in Kenya. If he takes a day off, his employer will cut his wages by 50 riyals (£10). Not that he often had that option. “During the summer we had to work for three months without a day off,” he said.

His company confiscated his passport. “Maybe they think if you have your passport, you can escape to another company,” he said. “We have no other choice, so we take what’s on the table.”

The Guardian’s findings shine a direct light on world football’s governing body, which has been criticized by Amnesty International for taking a “laissez-faire” approach to workers’ rights in the host country. A FIFA spokesperson said it “takes any claim relating to the rights of workers who contribute to hosting FIFA events very seriously.”

The spokesperson said a dedicated team was implementing an audit and compliance system for companies involved in the delivery of the World Cup, including hotels, to ensure that workers’ rights were respected. “Despite the need for continuous improvement, we have already seen significant progress by many hotels in Qatar in recent months,” the spokesperson added.

A glittering array of new buildings were built to accommodate the World Cup.
A glittering array of new buildings were built to accommodate the World Cup. Photography: Pete Pattison

Isobel Archer, a specialist in Gulf labor rights at the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), a London-based charity, said hotels should recognize their responsibilities to all workers, including those who work through subcontractors.

“If hotel brands put half the effort into scrutinizing their suppliers’ work practices as they heighten reception desks or thicken guestroom cushions, we’ll see transformative change for hotel workers,” she said.

A report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights this year also found evidence of widespread exploitation of hotel workers in Qatar, which it said should be a “red flag” for football teams, fans and sponsoring companies.

A Qatari official said the government “takes any violation of labor laws very seriously, including those related to the hospitality sector.” The official said Qatar has zero tolerance for violating companies, and issues harsh penalties that include fines and prison sentences.

The official added, “Awareness initiatives have been launched to provide workers with information on how to file complaints against the employer, and new mechanisms have also been introduced to facilitate better access to justice.”

*Names have been changed or deleted to protect the identity of the workers.

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