Constructing fear in Qatar

In a move to the Left after vacating the Presidency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from 2000 till 2010, Sharan Burrows went with an ABC film crew and journalist Eric Campbell to QATAR to expose terrible conditions for over 1 million migrant construction workers. Not the worst working conditions in the region but pretty bad nonetheless.

Qatar is the home of al Jazeera and of US airforce and military bases used to strike Iraqi and Syrian people. Qatar is a feudal autocracy that refuses foreign workers permission to enter the capital city of Doha during its national day of celebration, even though it was foreign workers that built the city.

Under Sharan Burrow’s leadership, the ACTU supported the election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007 that sent workers to their deaths in the botched implementation of the Pink Bat Installation scheme. Sharan Burrow blamed dodgy contractors but the ALP government failed to regulate the scheme and to insist on proper health and safety conditions:

“You’ve got hundreds of operators who suddenly decided they would become pink bat installers overnight, and they’re dodgy.” Ms Burrow said.

It would be interesting to hear ALP member Burrow’s take on the failure of a Labor government to prevent deaths in Australian industry. One worker dies in the Australian workplaces every week … in the recent build of Brisbane tunnels OH&S was nearly non-existent. If it weren’t for the unions nothing would be done.

Successive Australian governments have exploited foreign workers using the 457 visa and the current federal government has effectively created two classes of citizenship with its immigration laws.

Former ALP government minister Simon Crean another ACTU president supported the war in Iraq and the US alliance despite the devastation and lives lost from that conflict.

Ian Curr
June 2015


2 thoughts on “Constructing fear in Qatar

  1. Foreign Correspondent - Transcript says:

    Slaves to the Beautiful Game
    Foreign Correspondent ABC – Broadcast: 02/06/2015
    Reporter: Eric Campbell

    World football’s latest corruption implosion begs the question: should Russia and Qatar be stripped of their World Cup tournaments?

    Russia won the 2018 tournament bid. For 2022, Qatar knocked off a field that included Australia – despite inevitable queries about staging a summer sport extravaganza in a scorched desert state with a tiny population.

    Reporter Eric Campbell has been in Qatar to witness how this Middle East emirate – the world’s richest country per capita – is spending some of the $260 billion it’s showering on new stadiums, hotels and infrastructure.

    He discovered that the people doing the hard work – migrant labourers mostly from South Asia – endure wretched living and working conditions.

    (They) live in squalor… They’re owned by another individual, lock, stock and barrel – that’s slavery. SHARAN BURROW, head of the International Trade Union Confederation.

    Australian Sharan Burrow, former ACTU chief, takes Campbell on a tour of a hostel of Nepalese workers, living 12 to a room, who endure filthy kitchens, washing and toilet facilities and work six days a week for up to 12 hours a day with no paid overtime.

    They just bring you back when they decide you’ve finished. NEPALESE WORKER

    Qatar has a system called Kafala which means foreign workers surrender their passports to the employer who decides where they work and even whether they can even leave Qatar. In response to international pressure, including from FIFA, Qatar is promising to reform the Kafala system.

    The workers here can be physically and verbally abused, they can lose their visa, which is the livelihood, they can be stuck in detention centres or they can be kicked back home. MUSTAFA QADRI, Amnesty International

    Eric Campbell’s investigation also took him to France, to hear a bizarre story of former footballer Abdes Ouaddou, who was hired to play in Qatari League. At first all went well but then he was ordered to change clubs, his salary was cut and he was denied an exit visa.
    Only by complaining to a player’s union and FIFA, was Ouaddou eventually allowed to leave. But he remains outraged that Qatar has been given the right to stage the World Cup.

    How can such a prestigious, popular competition take place in a country that doesn’t respect human rights or the law? That was modern slavery. I am shocked. How can Qatar enjoy this conspiracy of silence?

  2. Doha News says:

    Many expats (foreign workers) have expressed disappointment after being once again turned away from this morning’s National Day parade for not being accompanied by women or children …

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