Browsing 'SCDL' News

Construction workers eat at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

World Cup organizers are teaming up with medical experts in Qatar to examine and better understand the health of their workers.

Some 1,000 employees are being studied as part of a new pilot program launched in February by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

The goal is to identify common health challenges such as high blood pressure, blood sugar issues and dehydration, and see if better nutrition can help, WCM-Q said in a statement.

Construction workers eat at Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium mess hall

After conducting health checks, the college will launch awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of balanced diets.

Working with contractors

It will also work with catering companies and contractors to recommend revised food options that take into account the health of the employees.

A detailed report will be sent to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL).

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But they only employ a fraction of workers in Qatar, and the hope is that other companies in the country will also take the findings to heart, researchers said.

In a statement, Dr. Javaid I. Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, added:

“This initiative represents an exciting opportunity to tackle a global problem, that of nutritional deficiencies amongst migrant workers.

Through this initiative, we therefore not only hope to better understand the specific nutritional needs of workers in Qatar, but also to educate them about diet so they can pass this knowledge on to their families when they return home.”

Migrant health

According to the United Nations, health is a human right.

SCDL

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

And expat workers particularly from developing countries face greater health risks than non-migrants.

This is for a variety of reasons, including that:

  • They may come from nations with poor health systems;
  • They work in industries that have higher occupational risks;
  • Health regulations are not strictly applied on the job; and
  • They may lack access to local health systems.

Developing preventative programs, such as the one WCM-Q is launching, is a good step toward ensuring worker well-being, the UN added.

Worker deaths

Such programs may also help Qatar officials address another problem that’s been on the rise – the so-called mysterious deaths of young construction workers.

In December, Al Jazeera reported that a rising number of Nepali expats around the world have been dying in their sleep or of heart attacks.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Many of the dead were young men who headed overseas to do physically demanding jobs in hot climates.

According to a former Nepal ambassador to Qatar, 55 percent of Nepali migrant workers deaths in Qatar are the result of “sudden” cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, some 20 percent are from work-related accidents, 15 percent from traffic accidents and 10 percent from suicide, Suryanath Mishra said.

Speaking in 2015, he urged officials to “properly and urgently” investigate Nepali deaths in Doha. He added:

“In general, it is due to tension led by exploitation, adverse climate, poor working and living conditions and alcoholic intoxication.”

Numbers up for debate

Though nearly 90 percent of its population is comprised of foreigners, Qatar’s government does not publish annual breakdowns of migrant deaths.

However, according to figures that it shared with the UN earlier this year, only 35 expats were killed while on the job in 2016.

SCDL

Al Wakrah stadium site

That includes one Nepali man who was struck by a water tanker while working on the Al Wakrah Stadium site.

Meanwhile, some 547 people were seriously injured in falls, from mishaps with heavy equipment and “accidents involving a crush.”

The numbers do not take into account, however, the types of possibly health-related deaths that Mishra highlighted.

Thoughts?

Impactt

World Cup project workers

An audit of contractors on 2022 World Cup projects in Qatar found many to be working their staff too hard, according to a new report.

For example, half of the 10 contractors interviewed failed to give their employees one day off a week.

And many construction workers faced 72-hour weeks, instead of the 48 hours stipulated in a charter established by tournament organizers.

Construction work at Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Reconstruction of Khalifa Stadium, for illustrative purposes only

These findings were published last week in an independent report commissioned by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL).

The Annual External Compliance Report was authored by London-based ethical trade consultancy Impactt.

It was hired by the SCDL in 2016 amid growing international concern about human rights violations in Qatar, and will be monitoring World Cup project sites in the coming years.

Charter compliance

Currently, about 10,000 people are working on World Cup projects in Qatar. That number is expected to surge to a peak of 36,000 workers by next year.

Marco Zanferrari/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To win tenders for tournament projects, contractors and subcontractors had to agree to abide by the SCDL’s workers’ charter.

The document covers living conditions, ethical recruitment, workers’ nutrition and on-site health and safety, among other things.

During its first audits, Impactt spoke to 10 contractors and 253 workers over the past year to see whether companies were adhering to the charter.

Findings

While companies mostly complied with rules about housing and safety, many fell down when it came to issues such as proper rest and setting up grievance mechanisms.

For example, some employees worked up to 18 hours a day (instead of eight to 10).

However, Impactt said that “solid progress” was made after the non-compliance issues were pointed out.

Construction workers at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium renovations for illustrative purposes only.

It added that a follow-up audit conducted in January of this year found that 78 percent of issues were resolved, especially those involving medical care, transportation and end-of-service procedures.

That said, eight out 10 contractors still failed to provide an annual flight home to their employees.

Because this requirement is not legally required in Qatar, it “highlights the barriers which the SC faces in trying to advance practices beyond local law and common business practice,” the report said.

Notably, World Cup project workers account for just a fraction of Qatar’s overall blue-collar workforce. Most employers in the country are not as stringently monitored or bound by the same higher standards.

Recommendations

Many of Impactt’s recommendations for the contractors involved making changes to company culture.

Construction workers eat at the Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, it urged that more be done to:

  • Amplify workers’ voices, because capturing their feedback will help management and 2022 organizers best understand which issues matter to their staff;
  • Build management skills by training foremen, accommodation managers and welfare officers to develop respectful people skills; and
  • Shore up grievance mechanisms to ensure workers are treated fairly and help drive positive change.

Impactt also urged the SCDL to participating in “multi-stakeholder action” to resolve more systematic problems.

These include the exorbitant recruitment fees workers pay to get to Qatar and the substitute contracts that may await them upon arrival.

For its part, the SCDL said in a statement:

“While the findings clearly state there are challenges, they also demonstrate our continued commitment to this process.

We will do everything necessary to ensure the issues identified are dealt with promptly.”

What’s to come

In the coming year, 100 percent of contractors across nine active projects will be audited for compliance to the charter.

At least five percent of the workers employed by each contractor will also be interviewed.

Impactt

Impactt initial audit scope

Additionally, the SCDL has agreed to establish a worker hotline for grievances, continue to work with international unions on joint health and safety inspections of construction and housing sites; and complete a worker survey.

Impactt interviewed a small sample of workers about their priorities and found that respect, a better future for their families and income security were among the things that mattered most to them.

However, a much larger sample is needed for these results to be considered representative, it said.

Thoughts?

SCDL

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar is planning to spend a lot less on hosting the 2022 World Cup than it originally planned, according to tournament organizers.

Speaking to CNN this week, one official said the budget has been reduced by 40 percent.

But he added that this was not in response to lower oil prices, which has caused Qatar’s government to curb its spending in recent years.

Secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi

SCDL

Secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi

Rather, the goal is to “ensure there is financial responsibility,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL).

He said that the supreme committee now plans to spend about US$8 to US$10 billion on tournament infrastructure.

Most of that will go toward stadiums and training grounds.

It does not count highways, hospitals or the upcoming Doha Metro, which the country’s finance minister included when he recently estimated that $500 million a week was being spent ahead of 2022.

Stadiums taking shape

FIFA has not yet finalized the number of stadiums Qatar must have ready in five years time. But Al Thawadi confirmed the country is expecting it to be eight.

“We are moving ahead with eight stadiums and in case discussions go on, there might be an extra stadium to be developed,” he told CNN.

SCDL

Khalifa International Stadium rendering

Most of those venues are being built completely from scratch, and all stadiums are expected to be completed by 2020.

Some, like Khalifa International Stadium on Al Waab, are almost complete, though slightly behind schedule.

Meanwhile, work on the Al Khor Al Bayt and Al Wakrah stadiums is expected to wrap up next year.

But other venues remain in the preliminary stages. For example, design for at least three of the venues, including Al Thumama, Lusail and Ras Abu Abboud have yet to be revealed.

Homegrown seats

Also this week, the SCDL announced that the seats for three of its World Cup stadiums will be made in Qatar.

The committee awarded a contract to Coastal Qatar to build 500 seats a day for the next several month months.

SCDL

Al Wakrah stadium seat design

They will be installed in the Al Wakrah, Al Bayt and Al Rayyan stadiums.

In a statement, the SCDL said the first “Made in Qatar” seat will be installed in the Al Bayt Stadium in December of this year.

Thoughts?