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Engineers Against Poverty propose new protections for migrant workforce constructing sports stadia

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Engineers Against Poverty propose new protections for migrant workforce constructing sports stadia

What can be done to protect those working to build the infrastructure for sporting mega-events?

Major sporting events such as the 2022 Qatar World Cup have the potential for huge social and economic impact. However, since Qatar won the World Cup bid in 2010 a spotlight has been shone on the vulnerability of migrant workers in the region, many of whom are employed to construct stadia for large-scale sporting events. One of the major forms of exploitation this group suffers from is the late or non-payment of wages. In response to this, Engineers Against Poverty has released the third paper in its series focusing on protecting the wages of migrant construction workers in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

With current systems in the GCC failing to adequately protect vulnerable workers, this paper explores wage protection measures in China, the European Union, the USA and Latin America. A continuous thread emerges between the measures identified; they are linked by attempts to extend liability for wages beyond the immediate employer in subcontracting chains. Doing so mitigates against the ruthless aspects of the supply chain, meaning workers at the bottom will still be paid even if not from their direct employer.

There is a clear rationale for extending liability, which would protect migrant workers involved in any future sporting projects in the GCC. Firstly, workers have an additional source of payment to fall back on if their immediate employer cannot – or will not – pay their wages. Crucially, if main contractors are at risk of being held liable for the non-payment of wages, they are given a clear incentive not to subcontract to actors who are unlikely to be able to pay.

Additionally, extending liability for wages would strengthen the Wage Protection System (WPS), which is the main protective measure in place in the GCC. The WPS is an electronic salary transfer system which is designed to pay wages directly into the bank accounts of workers, thus recording when wages have (or have not) been paid. However, it has so far failed to reduce the incidence of wage disputes or to serve as a deterrent against non-payment of wages. Holding main contractors responsible for the non-payment of workers down the supply chain would create a strong deterrent effect and enhance the overall efficacy of the WPS.

Continued exploitation of migrant workers in the GCC risks overshadowing the sporting events such stadia are built for, as the publicity surrounding the recent Athletics World Championships clearly demonstrates. The recommendations in this report provide a realistic opportunity to strengthen wage protection measures for migrant workers, which means the spotlight can remain firmly on the positive impact sport has. 


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Tippi Creed-Waring


Friday, October 11, 2019 - 11:05