Thursday, 26 September 2013

Migrant Workers in Qatar: A Matter of Life & Death


Any student of labour and trade union studies will understand the nature of the global division of labour, and of the re-occuring displacement of migrant labour as a dominant feature of this. International sports events rely heavily on this fragmented, dispossessed underclass - the 'new helots' as defined by Robin Cohen in his profound analysis of migrants as a feature of globalisation ( reprising the degraded state of the slaves of Sparta in classical antiquity.

In Sunday's Obsever Nick Cohen ( applied in a profound sense the notion of the new helot to the migrant workers toiling to build the new ground/facilities for the 2022 world cup in Qatar and the appalling conditions they face. The story is a prominent feature in today's Guardian ( and has become a major campaign of the ITUC, TUC etc.

Sadly the plight of migrant workers in Qatar is nothing new in the global race to build better, bigger stadia for international sporting events, either as a measure of hubris - as indicative of the billions spent by Putin for the winter Olympics in Sochi - or more simply to rake in vast streams of revenue from advertising, ticket sales, tourism etc.

The conditions facing workers in Qatar are particulary horrendous and as reported across the global media workers face also the challenge of overcoming particularly pernicious immigration and employment laws which effectively make a worker the property of an employer and curtail the capacity of a worker to leave the country as means to escape exploitation. The footballer Abdeslam Ouaddou appears in the video clip above describing his own ordeal of being forced to stay in the kingdom following a dispute about his contract.

It appears that other factors (the heat: may well spoil the ambitions of the Qatari royal family in hosting the games but I urge you to support the ITUC campaign ( and force the games from Qatar sending an unequivocal message that the abuse of workers for state-sponsored events will not go unchallenged.

In closing this post I am reminded of the quote from Bill Shankley about football being more important than life and death. Sadly, for far too many workers in the global economy, football, and the inordinate wealth wrapped around and within so many other sports create the conditions within which life and death become stark features of their daily lives.

In Solidarity


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