FIFA has responded to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which is highly critical of working conditions in the construction of World Cup stadiums in Russia.
HRW voiced concerns over the treatment of those working on venues for the 2018 World Cup and this month’s Confederations Cup.
The organisation released a 34-page report ‘Red Card: Exploitation of Construction Workers on World Cup Sites in Russia,’ which, according to HRW, “documents how workers on six World Cup stadium construction sites faced unpaid wages either in full or part, several months’ delays in payment of wages, work in temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Celsius without sufficient protections, and employers’ failure to provide work contracts required for legal employment.”
HRW continues: “At least 17 workers have died on World Cup stadium sites, according to the Building and Wood Workers’ International global union. Workers on several stadiums have organised strikes repeatedly to protest non-payment of wages and other labour abuses.
“International media have published credible reports about North Korean workers employed on the World Cup Stadium in St. Petersburg in 2016 working long hours with few days off and compelled to send wages to the North Korean government.
“FIFA states that the workers are no longer working at the St. Petersburg or other World Cup stadiums, but publicised no information about steps taken to protect or assist these workers.”
HRW also claimed FIFA’s promise to make human rights “a centrepiece” of its operations has not been met, but world football’s governing body insists it is working hard to “identify and address issues related to human and labour rights”.
It adds: “FIFA shares Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) objective to ensure decent working conditions on FIFA World Cup stadium construction sites,” read the statement.
“According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, FIFA has a responsibility to use its leverage to ensure the protection of human rights in stadiums that will be used for the FIFA World Cup.
“Despite the lack of contractual relations with construction companies, FIFA is going beyond what any sports federation has done to date to identify and address issues related to human and labour rights.
“In particular, FIFA has put in place a pioneer monitoring system, to identify issues and take concrete measures to address them.
“While incompliances with relevant labour standards continue to be found – something to be expected in a project of this scale – the overall message of exploitation on the construction sites portrayed by HRW does not correspond with FIFA’s assessment, which is based on the quarterly inspections conducted by independent experts and trade union representatives.
“To date, a total of 58 inspections have been carried out. On average, the inspections covered 75 percent of the workforce employed on the construction sites at the time of the visits.
“Based on the detailed results of consecutive inspections, there is clear evidence that the monitoring system is helping to improve labour standards.”