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

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When Fifa leaders set foot on the asphalt in Doha next November for the start of the 2022 World Cup, their next stop will likely be check-in at one of Qatar’s lavish hotels, built to provide the backdrop. the most luxurious possible. at the biggest sporting event in the world.

Now, with a year to go until the first game, fans who want to emulate the lifestyle of the sporting elite can head over to on the Fifa Hospitality website plan their stay in the host country. There, they can browse a catalog of exclusive Fifa-approved accommodations, from boutique hotels to five-star resorts.

Yet behind the scenes at some of these hotels, as guests lounge around the pool or sip cocktails at the bar, migrant hotel workers have claimed they are struggling to survive on a £ 1 salary. time.

The Guardian stayed in or visited seven of the hotels listed on the Fifa Hospitality website and in interviews and conversations with more than 40 workers – employed directly and through contractorsuncovered a number of allegations of serious violations of labor rights and low wages. The hotels were not named to protect the identities of workers who spoke to the Guardian.

Many workers alleged they were working very long hours, with some claiming they had not had a day off in months. As they spent their days surrounded by the most luxurious settings, some workers said they were housed in overcrowded rooms in stuffy labor camps. Some workers claimed that their passports had been confiscated. Many said their employer would not let them change jobs.

While rooms at hotels listed on the Fifa Home site are charged up to £ 820 per night when purchased as part of a package, almost every worker the Guardian spoke to, employed in housekeeping, security, valet parking, cleaning or gardening, said they made less than £ 1.25 an hour . Many worked for less than £ 1 an hour.

The workers made multiple allegations of violations of Qatar’s labor laws, suggesting loopholes in Qatar’s labor reforms. These promised the end of abusive working conditions and the kafala sponsorship system which meant that workers could not change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s consent.

The workers’ allegations also imply that Fifa did not effectively carry out basic checks on the hotels investigated by the Guardian that it had listed in its catalog, in violation of its own. human rights policy, which obliges it to prevent labor abuses linked to its operations.

While most of the workers the Guardian spoke to received wages in line with the new minimum wage, which came into effect in March 2021, that wage still equates to just £ 1 an hour plus a small allowance for food and meals.

The Guardian also seen the payslips of a worker employed directly by a hotel in the Fifa catalog, which show that when the minimum wage was introduced his base salary from 750 rials (£ 150) increased to 1,000 rials ( £ 200) per month, but food or transport allowances, for example, have been reduced by the same amount, meaning his salary has remained the same.

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

As darkness fell over one of the Fifa’s brochure properties, guests retreated inside, leaving David *, a migrant worker from Africa, to work by the pool.

A night in a standard hotel room costs more than David earns in a month. He desperately wants to change jobs, but despite recent government legislation allowing this, he said he was trapped. “My friends have tried to change jobs but our company refuses to let them go,” he said. “We have to accept it. Our boss does what he wants.

The hotel has lavish suites and a marble-lined lobby, but its own accommodations are radically different: a tiny room shared with five other people in a run-down resort on the outskirts of Doha.

Ranjit, a security guard, was on duty nearby, as he had done for the previous 11 hours. Ranjit’s salary is around 80p an hour. Yet for five months he kept nothing; Everything is gone to pay the illegal fee of £ 1,300 he was forced to hand over a recruiting officer to his home to secure the post. “It’s a scam,” he said. “Here they suck your blood. “

Some workers at the seven hotels said they were satisfied with their work and the staff accommodation provided by the hotel. Yet the majority said they felt trapped between the demands of their employers and the need to earn money for their families back home.

In a hotel, a The worker alleged that management would only give bonuses to staff who hand in their passports. It is illegal for employers to keep workers’ passports in Qatar.

“We have fallen into a trap and cannot get out,” said another hotel employee.

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

A few hotels have shown good practice in recruiting their staff directly through online advertisements, rather than through labor agents who often extract exorbitant and illegal fees from recruits, but even at these properties the Guardian spoke to staff who received very low salaries.

The worst allegations of abuse involved workers employed by contractors, especially hotel security guards and gardeners.

At another hotel on the Fifa website, a Kenyan security guard is about to start his 12-hour shift, which he says extended beyond 3 p.m. added travel time to and from his labor camp.

If he works all month without a break, he earns 2,000 rials (£ 400); far less than he was promised when he registered for the post in Kenya. If he took a day off, his employer would cut his salary by 50 rials (£ 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 passport was confiscated by his company. “Maybe they think if you have your passport you can run away to another business,” he said. “We have no other option, so we take what’s on the table.”

The Guardian’s findings shone the spotlight directly on world football’s governing body, which has been criticized by Amnesty International for taking a ‘hands off’ approach to workers’ rights in the host country. A Fifa spokesperson said that it “takes very seriously any complaints regarding the rights of workers contributing to the organization of Fifa events”.

The spokesperson said a dedicated team is implementing an audit and compliance system for companies involved in hosting the World Cup, including hotels, to ensure that workers’ rights are respected. . “Although continuous improvement is needed, we have already seen significant progress in many hotels in Qatar in recent months,” the spokesperson added.

A sparkling array of new buildings were built to host the World Cup tournament. Photography: Pete Pattisson

Isobel Archer, a Gulf labor rights specialist at the Business & Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), a London-based charity, said hotels must recognize their responsibilities to all workers, including those employed by sub -treaters.

“If hotel brands put even half of their effort into examining their suppliers’ working practices like the height of their reception desks or the density of pillows in rooms, we would see transformational change for employees. from the hotel, ”she said.

A report from this year’s BHRRC also found evidence of widespread exploitation of hotel workers in Qatar, which it says should be a ‘red flag’ for football teams, fans and corporate sponsors. .

A Qatari official said the government “takes very seriously any violation of its labor laws, including those in the hospitality sector.” The official said Qatar has a zero tolerance approach to offending companies, imposing severe penalties including fines and prison terms.

“Awareness-raising initiatives have been launched to provide workers with information on how to file a complaint against their employer, and new mechanisms have been introduced to facilitate better access to justice,” the official added.

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


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