As the world geared up for the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, IndustriALL Global Union joined global federations IUF and BWI in a protest action at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, which ran from 28 May to 12 June.
IndustriALL and the food, farm and hotel workers' union, IUF, joined the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI) to take advantage of the ILC and organize a side event dedicated to decent work and sport, giving a red card to FIFA for workers’ rights abuses during the World Cup.
The cases of Poland-Ukraine (UEFA Euro 2012), South Africa, Brazil, Russia and Qatar (FIFA World Cup 2010 – 2014 – 2018 - 2022) were analysed from the point of respect of workers’ rights.
Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary, said “How is it possible that FIFA, which is registered as a non-profit organization, had a net income of US$3 billion from the South-Africa World Cup?"
Commenting on the action Fernando Lopes, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said, “We all love football, it is a great game that unites people of different nationalities across the globe, but no mater how good the game is we can’t accept the violation of workers’ rights linked to it. No World Cup without workers’ rights!”
World-sporting events generate billions in revenue for corporations, while the working conditions of building and construction workers behind the scenes remain dire. Workers, especially migrant workers, make a huge contribution to large events and yet receive extremely low wages and are vulnerable to sub-contracted employment and dangerous workplaces. In these cases, trade unions remain the only goalkeepers preventing a violation of workers’ rights.
It appears that the preparations for the Brazilian World Cup, despite all the negative stories in the media, have the least bad record in comparison to others. The only explanation is a strong trade union presence in Brazil. Since the announcement of Brazil hosting the FIFA World Cup, trade unions have made an agreement with the Government to ensure workers’ rights have to be respected. Many improvements in working conditions happened through collective bargaining e.g. the first ever national sector based tariff agreement for construction workers, a minimum wage increas and compensation for night shifts.
Nevertheless, global capital power is so strong that investors and employers still exerted a strong influence, undermining the achieved agreements in some cases.
The consequent violations provoked a number of strikes in Brazil from 2011. As many as 128,750 workers participated in 26 strikes. On average some 5,000 workers participated in each strike.
It should not be forgotten that nine workers died during construction works for the World Cup in Brazil. However, in comparison to Qatar, where according to the recent report of the International Trade Union Confederation the death toll among the workers has already passed 1,000 lives, Brazilian workers clearly enjoy much higher protection because they are organized.
The population of Qatar, which is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, has the highest migration workforce in the world at 88 per cent of workers. Qatar, with its Kafala system demanding all unskilled workers to have an in-country sponsor which creates an evil system of potential abuse and manipulation of workers’ rights, has been denounced for being a slave state. The country has no union presence, which is why it is of utmost importance to start organizing all those migrant workers and promote respect through global campaigning.