World Cup 2022 – Qatar’s supply chain employment practices under scrutiny

The Guardian raised last week the issues around treatment of construction workers in Qatar in the light of the 2022 World Cup and the huge construction programme that is getting underway there.  Many young Nepalese men are working on construction sites already – for the huge Lusail City development for example, and there are stories of ill-treatment, wages and passports being withheld, high death rates and lack of access to decent living accommodation, food or even water.

The Qatari authorities are saying all the right things in response, and the right sort of codes of conducts and so on appear to be in place. But it’s all a bit “pass the parcel”. There are western firms like CH2M Hill and Parsons involved but of course they say “we’re not responsible for the labour engagement and management”.  The blame gets shifted down the supply chain to slightly less blue-chip sub-contractors and then to the decidedly dodgy sub-contractors to sub-contractors!

The UN is also weighing into the debate. Here’s the Guardian.

“Qatar is failing to fully implement an international convention banning the use of forced labour ahead of the 2022 football World Cup, the United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned. Azfar Khan, the ILO's senior labour migration adviser in the Arab states, told the Guardian that despite pledges to do otherwise Qatar did not properly inspect workplace conditions and there was "no coherence" in the state's policies over the use of migrant labour”.

So, its all very well reporting on this, but what can we actually do? Well, keep up the pressure on firms like CH2M Hill, whose reputation will be affected if they don’t play their part in Qatar. Do you want to win more business with the MOD? Then make every effort to improve conditions for these people in Qatar.  That should be the message from senior procurement people and others.

Secondly, is there a role for CIPS here?  The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply has greatly increased its profile in the Middle East, and I’ve found that UK public sector procurement is held in high esteem in that part of the world (that may surprise some UK readers, but it is absolutely  true. Everything is relative, remember).

Perhaps CIPS could team up with other Institutes or interested parties to provide some sort of monitoring process to ensure that the supply chain is being managed properly right through to the individual workers and their conditions?  (I did ask Gerry Walsh at the recent CIPS SM dinner if he fancied a few years in Qatar after his success as CPO for the Olympics but he gave me a very funny look, then used some words I won’t repeat here...)

Anyway, it does appear that the Qatari government and the World Cup organisers want things to be done properly, so good intentions are a positive start. But converting that to good operational practice is going to take some pressure, effort and intervention to advise, educate and monitor what is going on at working level.

Any other ideas? How can the procurement community help to make sure we don’t see deaths and despair as the supply chain price for a sporting event?

First Voice

  1. Dan:

    The only people with the power to effect changes are FIFA, and they’re not going to

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