Hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar, who worked as security guards during the World Cup at FIFA’s main media center and other key sites, face deportation after an unprecedented protest took place in the streets of Doha on Sunday against the mass dismissals that followed the tournament.
The protest was the culmination of a long-running labor dispute involving workers who were sacked before their six-month contracts to work at the World Cup expired. They were left without a salary, bonuses and a place to live – forcing them to live in their own company.
Telegraph Sport Around 400 workers formerly employed by Doha-based Stark Security Services and Festival Global Management were said to have chartered buses to take them to the protest at the latter’s offices in the capital’s West Bay area. Police were called and arrests made. Eyewitnesses reported that the workers were escorted to their accommodation to collect their belongings prior to the deportation process.
1,000 workers originally participated in the protest over unpaid wages and bonuses
The feud began during the tournament when workers were required to sign new contracts. It then escalated after the World Cup ended when several of them, employed by Stark Security via prime contractor Festival Global, found their original six-month contracts expired. At its peak, the conflict saw 1,000 workers occupy their lodgings and refuse to leave unless they were given unpaid wages and bonuses.
The workers even went as far as hiring legal counsel to try to have their case heard in the country’s supreme court, but that appears to have failed. It is estimated that only 100 of the 1,000 participants in the occupation, which began on December 20, are still residing in the Barwa Al Baraha camp. The location is just a 20-minute drive from the England national team’s hotel in Qatar for the World Cup finals, in Al Wakrah on the south coast of Doha.
Men from Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East were recruited to work for Stark Security, which mainly guarded the Qatar National Convention Center which housed FIFA’s media center for the thousands of journalists from around the world reporting on the tournament. The telegraph I saw pictures from the end of last year of lists of names hanging on the wall of Barwa Al Baraha with “layoff” dates for hundreds of workers, either on December 19, 20 or 22.
The security guards claim they are owed three months’ salary
Such was the desperation among the guards, who claim they were owed three months’ salary on contracts that ran through February, that many of them pooled the finances to fight the case. Trade unions are not allowed to operate in Qatar. The standard salary for a bouncer is around 2,700 Qatari riyals per month – the equivalent of £615.
The redundancy process is handled by Stark Security partner Festival Global, which also has offices in the US, Tunisia and Kuwait. In what both companies described as a “dismissal form,” migrant workers were required to sign a declaration that they were no longer entitled to any wages in exchange for a small compensation fee.
Stark Security has been contacted on more than one occasion for comment but has not responded. The Supreme Organizing Committee for the 2022 World Cup did not respond to requests for comment. A senior Festival Global executive did not respond to the messages.
I saw a copy of the minutes that the workers were asked to sign The telegraph. The letter reads: “I have paid all my dues and received what was owed to me by Festival Global Management and Stark Security Services and will remove myself and my property from the accommodation provided by these companies as of today. It has been a pleasure to be of service and to be a part of this company throughout our time together.”
A minority of the keepers accepted £387 to vacate accommodation
Those on the scene estimate that a minority of the guards – numbering in the hundreds – agreed to sign severance forms and accept small compensation in exchange for leaving their accommodation immediately. It is understood that about 1,700 Qatari riyals were paid; About £387.
The row followed Stark’s demand earlier in the tournament that the guards sign new contracts that would effectively keep them in Qatar for two years. This came near the end of the first round in the World Cup. About 125 goalkeepers refused to work in FIFA’s main media center on 5 December in protest at being urged to sign new contracts.
The telegraph I saw one of Stark’s amended contract offers sent to workers in early December that paid a basic monthly salary of just 1,000 Qatari riyals – £226 – for a security guard. Under the terms of this offer, employees are entitled to only 21 days of paid annual leave, and return air tickets to their home country, after “two years of continuous service”.
The guards complained about the late payment of wages
Stark employed about 4,000 guards in a number of locations in Doha, and worked three shifts a day in the media center, of 125 guards and 63 female guards per shift, covering 24 hours. The guards complained about the late payment of wages.
The guards said they worked in the media center over the course of the World Cup without a day off. Stark’s move to switch to new contracts came in response to attempts by some guards to leave the company and find new work.
All migrant workers in Qatar must have an employer sponsor to be allowed to work in the country. This kafala system has been central to many of the historic rights abuses of migrant workers in Qatar. The Qatari government, as well as FIFA, and the International Labor Organization have taken great pains to say that significant progress has been made in reforming the kafala system.
The new contracts offered by Stark included a stipulation that the employees would not join a competing company upon their resignation. There is expected to be competition for contracts to provide goalkeepers for the AFC Asian Cup – Asia’s main international continental competition – to be held in Qatar in 2023.
hold he sees Telegraph Sport She offered several guards a monthly transportation allowance of 500 Qatari riyals (£113), which was used to cover the 35-minute bus journey from the company’s workers’ accommodation to the centre. The contract contained a monthly food allowance of 300 riyals (£68) and an unspecified additional allowance of 1,400 riyals (£316).