Amnesty: Firm at Qatar 2022 World Cup not paying wages

Some workers found themselves stuck in Qatar without money and unable to leave the country as local laws require workers to get an exit permit supported by their employer before they leave. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Amnesty: Firm at Qatar 2022 World Cup not paying wages

  • Mercury MENA, an engineering and plumbing firm, owes thousands of dollars of wages to workers from countries where many live on less than $2 a day
  • Qatar previously has faced criticism for worker conditions as it prepares to host the World Cup

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: A contractor involved in building the marquee stadium for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup did not pay its workers, leaving them stranded thousands of miles from home, according to a report released Wednesday.
Mercury MENA, an engineering and plumbing firm, owes thousands of dollars of wages to workers from countries where many live on less than $2 a day, Amnesty International said. Those employees helped build projects including Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, which will host the opening and closing matches of the soccer tournament.
The company, whose website is now down and offices in Doha are shuttered, did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. Qatar’s government said it was investigating.
“People from all over the world cheering, laughing, touring some of the beautiful stadiums, recreational sites and hotels here... Will they ever think what are the stories behind those structures?” one worker reportedly told Amnesty. “I guess not... Blind eyes are common nowadays.”
Amnesty said it examined the cases of 78 former employees of Mercury MENA, interviewing 44 and analyzing documentation of another 34. Of them, 58 came from Nepal, 15 from India and five from the Philippines, Asian nations that send thousands of laborers, taxi drivers and office workers to the Gulf.
Mercury MENA worked on several projects in Qatar, including the stadium, the new Qatar National Library and a worker’s hospital and modern accommodation for laborers, Amnesty said. Workers told Amnesty that the firm owed them on average between $1,370 to $2,470, a huge sum for their families back home. It said one worker was owed nearly $25,000 after over a decade of work.
Some workers found themselves stuck in Qatar without money and unable to leave the country as local laws require workers to get an exit permit supported by their employer before they leave. Earlier this month, Qatar partially ended that requirement, part of its internationally criticized “kafala” system that ties expatriate workers to a single employer.
Amnesty said Mercury MENA’s CEO told them in 2017 that his firm “had been the victim of unscrupulous business partners resulting in ‘cashflow problems’ and a number of disputes over payments with contractors and clients.”
Companies around the Gulf have been suffering from an economic slowdown in part aggravated by oil prices going as low as $30 a barrel in early 2016. Brent crude now is trading at over $80 a barrel. Meanwhile, Doha has faced a boycott by four Arab nations since June 2017 as part of a regional political dispute, further affecting its economy.
In a statement, Qatar’s Labor Ministry said such abuse of workers is “not tolerated” in the country and that there are unspecified “legal proceedings” against Mercury MENA.
“While Mercury MENA no longer operates in Qatar, legal matters will continue and we will conduct a full investigation,” the statement said.
Qatar previously has faced criticism for worker conditions as it prepares to host the World Cup in an Arabian Peninsula country where temperatures rise to a humid 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer. FIFA already has agreed to a 28-day World Cup tournament from to November to December 2022, which is already a departure from the regular mid-year schedule.
A British worker, Zachary Cox, died after falling nearly 40 meters (130 feet) in January 2017 at the Khalifa International Stadium. A British coroner blamed dangerous working practices for his death. A 23-year-old Nepali worker died at its Al Wakrah Stadium project site in August.


Yemen’s Hodeidah calm after cease-fire takes effect

Updated 9 min 54 sec ago
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Yemen’s Hodeidah calm after cease-fire takes effect

  • Yemen’s flashpoint city of Hodeida was calm on Tuesday after the UN-brokered cease-fire started at midnight
  • An agreement reached after talks in Sweden last week calls for the withdrawal of both sides’ forces from Hodeidah

Yemen’s flashpoint city of Hodeida was calm on Tuesday after the UN-brokered cease-fire started at midnight, pro-government sources and residents said.
“There has been complete calm since 03:00 am Yemen time (1200 GMT) in the city of Hodeida,” a military source loyal to the government told AFP on Tuesday.
The cease-fire agreement struck at the UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden came into effect at midnight Monday.
Residents said that daily fighting would usually be fierce in the evening and at night, before coming to a standstill at dawn.
The two warring sides have however welcomed the truce in the strategic Red Sea province.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government against Iran-backed Houthi militias “has no intention of violating the agreement ... unless the Houthis violate and dishonor it,” a coalition official said.
An agreement reached after talks in Sweden last week calls for the withdrawal of both sides’ forces from Hodeidah within 21 days and the deployment of international monitors. The Houthis are due to surrender control of the port by midnight on Dec. 31.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to propose a surveillance team of up to to 40 observers, diplomats said.
Hodeidah residents reported sporadic fighting to the east and south of the city on Monday before the cease-fire took hold, and a government military official said a fire had broken out in a factory in the east of the city after airstrikes on Sunday night.

(With AFP)