FIFA-approved luxury hotels in Qatar, which are preparing to host thousands of officials and sponsors at the World Cup, have paid staff the equivalent of £1-an-hour and haven’t paid overtime, according to human rights investigators.
The world governing body, which stands to make more than £3billion from the tournament that has cost an estimated £138bn to stage, has endorsed dozens of establishments throughout the country.
With suites costing up to £5,000-a-night at the swankiest establishments and Dom Perignon champagne on ice at £790-a-bottle, Qatar will be a blow-out for the world’s super-rich and the well-connected.
The tournament, which features 32 teams and more than 800 players, will also bring the world’s best-paid footballers to the wealthy oil-state. Among them will be Brazil’s Neymar, who earns £600,000-a-week, his PSG team mate, Kylian Mbappe of France, who earns £1m-a-week and Erling Haaland, who takes home £375,000 per week at Manchester City and plays for Norway.
But as privileged guests dip in the pools and spas, lounge on private beaches, and walk the tropical gardens and lush lawns coaxed from the desert, members of Qatar’s two-million migrant workforce will be serving them on minimum wages and working 12 to 15 hours a day, a human rights group claims.
A report into labour abuses at venues in Qatar and neighbouring countries has been compiled by Equidem and the Global Labour Justice – International Rights Forum (GLJ-IRLF) ahead of the World Cup, which begins on November 21.
The World Cup will begin in Qatar on November 21 – the defending champions are France
The rights groups interviewed more than 69 workers at 29 FIFA-approved hotels, many of them run by global companies, during the past two years. Now, in a 65-page report, migrant workers have described how they have:
- worked for up to 15 hours-a-day and sometimes for months on end without a day off
- been paid the absolute minimum wage, which equates to around £1-per-hour for a standard nine-hour day, six days-a-week
- not been paid overtime, which reduces the hourly rate even further
- suffered periods without pay or on reduced wages
- been forced to pay thousands of pounds to intermediaries to obtain employment, which is against the law in Qatar
- been paid less if they come from certain countries, like Bangladesh, Nepal or Kenya, compared to Arab workers
- been scared to speak out for fear of retaliation and pay being withheld if they try to work at another hotel
Among the hotels to feature in the document is the Westin Doha Hotel in central Doha, where the Brazil team, which features PSG’s Neymar, Manchester United’s Fred, Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior and Chelsea’s Thiago Silva, will stay.
A Nepalese worker told the study that they earned a basic salary of 1000 Qatari Rials a month in catering at the hotel, which works out at about £1 per hour, plus a QR300 supplement.
The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa is among the hotels to have come under fire in the new report
Human rights group, Equidem, has spoken to hotel workers who claim abuses are ongoing despite FIFA’s efforts to encourage better practice
One thousand Riyals per month is the minimum wage in the Middle East County, under a new law introduced last year, with employers required to provide board and lodging, or pay an allowance of 500QR for food and 300QR for accommodation.
‘My basic salary is 1000 only,’ the migrant worker told investigators in May, which is recorded in the background papers to the report.
‘[The document] has 1000 + 300 written on it,’ they added.
‘According to the law here, it is not possible to pay less than this. Thank God it is starting from a thousand Riyal.’
The Westin Doha told Sportsmail the hotel, which is run by the Marriott Group, now pays 1,500 QR per month, which is closer to £1.50 per hour.
In either case, Neymar would earn the cleaner’s monthly wage in less than two minutes, if he worked a standard 40-hour week – hardly enough time to whip round with a duster.
Brazil’s Richarlison (L) with teammates (L to R) Neymar, Everton Ribeiro, Fred and Renan Lodi are on their way to Qatar and a luxurious hotel awaits them complete with private beach
The hotel earmarked for the Brazil team also has a private pool to keep the guests entertained
As reported by Sportsmail, former workers from the Souq Al Wakra hotel, where the England team will stay, also claim some staff receive 1,000 QR per month for some jobs.
‘The question does have to be raised: why is their pay so low when not only are these hotels so expensive to stay at, but football associations, corporates and FIFA have spent billions on the tournament?’ Mustafa Qadri, chief executive of Equidem told Sportsmail.
‘Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries. So how is it these workers are so underpaid?’
Equidem found migrant workers picking up a range of wages, with cleaners and housekeepers saying they earned the minimum and a hotel receptionist from the Philippines reporting the highest wage at 4,000 QR per month, just over £900.
In one case where accommodation was provided, an employee said he shared a cramped room, with five others, where they had to store food and cooking equipment under the beds and as a result they were overrun with insects.
Human rights groups, including Equidem, accept that Qatar has taken steps to improve the working conditions for migrant workers, such as introducing welfare standards and reducing the control of employers over their staff.
England will be staying at the Souq al Wakra hotel, a luxurious five-star development
Former workers have claimed some staff are on the minimum wage and over time is not paid
However, campaigners insist that despite administrative changes, thousands are still facing abuse and exploitation on a daily basis, on the ground.
In its latest report, published today, Equidem says it has been gathering evidence among hotel staff in Qatar for over two years, right up to this month. The group said they have found many workers are fearful to speak out in case they lose their job and right to work.
‘Our investigations documented significant labour and human rights violations perpetrated against migrant workers, including nationality-based discrimination, wage theft, health and safety risks, and sudden loss of employment along with surveillance and retaliation against migrant workers who brought forward information on violations,’ the report states.
‘These findings raise serious concerns about the risk of violations of international labour standards and international human rights norms at Qatar World Cup hotels before, during and after the 2022 tournament.’
Qatar was controversially awarded the World Cup in 2010. Since then, preparations for the showpiece tournament have been dogged by reports of widespread abuse of migrant workers, who built the new stadiums, hotels and towns that will host the global spectacle.
Thousands of construction workers are known to have died in the country, many feared to have perished as a result of heat exhaustion, and the scandal has forced FIFA to demand better conditions for employees.
England manager Gareth Southgate has chosen a more low key base than some teams
England say players have been taking a keen interest in the human rights situation in Qatar
A number of common themes have emerged from the interviews, despite the reforms that were supposed give workers more protection.
Staff at different hotels said they are expected to work extra hours without payment, which drives down the hourly rate of already meagre pay.
The regular nine-hour day for migrant workers in Qatar is routinely extended to 12 hours, or even 15 hours during the busiest periods, say workers. They are braced for the World Cup, when more than one million visitors are expected to flood the country.
An Indian worker, hired by one Doha hotel, described overwork in her housekeeping department. ‘We never get enough rest or sleep when the hotel is busy,’ they said. ‘We work like robots without food or water continuously, sometimes for 15 hours during peak season.’
A member of staff at a huge complex of almost 1,000 rooms, apartments and executive suites, told researchers: ‘For nine months, we were made to work for more than 12 hours a day, without a day off.
‘In order to keep our hours hidden, we were prevented from clocking in and clocking out. I was on the verge of going insane.’
The al Wakra resort is wedged alongside the newly-built Souq, with easy access to the beach
The position of workers is made more vulnerable when they are forced to make large payments to secure jobs in hotels in Qatar.
Migrants often find jobs through agents, who can charge huge fees, which are paid by taking on debts. The recruitment fees are meant to be paid by the employer, but workers told Equidem that hotels had not made them aware of this and they paid themselves.
Bangladeshi contract workers described paying more than £1,000 in fees, while an African working in the kitchen at a hotel nearby said he paid over £1,100 to an agent.
‘I didn’t know the employer was responsible for paying these fees,’ he said. ‘My employer did not disclose this information.’
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup between 21 November and 18 December this year
In these circumstances, wages are diverted to service the debt, rather than sending money home to support families. In addition, Equidem says employees may be more compliant and more likely to accept poor pay and conditions, because they cannot afford to lose their job.
Workers have also insisted there is often not a wage scale for jobs, but there is one for nationalities within the sector, with Nepali, Bangladeshi and African workers discriminated against and given the lowest level of pay.
‘For the same bellboy job, an Arab worker will be paid more than us,’ one worker at another hotel in the capital, Doha, told researchers. ‘Here, Bangladeshis are paid less. We fear for our jobs, and we have to tolerate unfair decisions.’
Human rights groups say the ability to move jobs reduces the risk of abuse. Under labour reforms introduced in 2020, the kafala – or sponsorship – system, under which workers are unable to change jobs without their employer’s permission, was ended.
However, Equidem says in practice employers can still exert control over employees.
At another luxury venue in Doha, workers reported abuse if they handed in their one-month notice prior to going to another hotel, which is required by Qatari law.
‘When I resigned, they stopped me from working my notice period,’ said a Ugandan worker.
‘I had to stay in their accommodation before starting the new job, but they did not provide me with any food.
Construction workers were given cramped accommodation – and hotel staff complained too
The Gulf state has been blighted by allegations of human rights abuse of construction workers
‘They stopped me from working and did not pay me so I had no money to buy food. I would have starved if my friends had not helped me.’
The Equidem findings support those of other organisations. Earlier this month, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) found evidence of widespread exploitation of hotel workers in Qatar and criticised the luxury hotel industry for ‘not doing enough to end abusive recruitment practices’ in Qatar.
Last year, the Guardian interviewed 40 hotel workers and found many were paid £1 per hour or less, were forced to pay to secure jobs, where they were expected to work 12 to 15 hours per day, and in some cases were housed in overcrowded conditions.
In the latest study, some workers reported areas of better practice, which was welcomed by Equidem, including new processes to listen to concerns and action to prevent payment of fees to recruitment agents.
The Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy inspects hotels to ensure they meet agreed standards, but the human rights organisation fear these visits engage with management, not vulnerable workers, and are not effective at preventing abuses.
‘FIFA should call on the Qatar Supreme Committee… to ensure that planned labour rights inspections include… processes for identifying and remediating wage discrimination, wage theft, and health and safety risks… [and engage with] migrant workers in a manner that protects their privacy and safeguards workers who report rights violations from retaliation,’ the report says.
The Westin Hotel and Spa features very high standard facilities in the capital of Qatar, Doha
A Marriott spokesperson for the Westin Doha Hotel said the group had made strenuous efforts to improve conditions.
‘We take our responsibility to all employees extremely seriously, their wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do,’ she said.
The spokesperson said that now the ‘vast majority’ of staff recruited overseas are dealt with directly by the hotel, not an agent, ensuring better treatment operating a ‘no fees’ recruitment policy and agencies that are used are vetted.
She said the Westin Doha package for entry level jobs currently includes, ‘relocation expenses… accommodation, meals, medical insurance, WIFI, gym, laundry and transport costs to ensure that our teams take home their full pay packet of a minimum of 1500QR’.
Sportsmail also contacted the Intercontinental Doha to ask about claims that staff have been asked to work 12 to 15 hours per day when the hotel is busy and have not been paid for the extra hours, as well as reports that recruitment charges are demanded by an agency to secure a position at the hotel.
‘We have a long-standing commitment to ensure the rights of all our colleagues are protected as per international labour standards,’ said Andreas Pfister, the general manager.
‘We have policies in place that cover the areas you have raised. We actively encourage all our colleagues to raise any issues with their line managers and as per standard industry practice, we have a confidential hotline to allow colleagues to report any concerns. Any reported concerns are fully investigated.’