UK firms urged to help 'slave' Qatar World Cup workers

Unions claim employees on construction projects are paid £5 for 15-hour days in deadly heat

A host of British building firms yesterday faced pressure from trade unions not to exploit cheap migrant labour on construction contracts ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

The GMB has called for an urgent meeting with 13 British companies including the construction manager of London's Shard skyscraper, Mace, and Heathrow Terminal Five builder Laing O' Rourke and FTSE 250 group Kier.

The International Trade Union Confederation wants the World Cup moved from Qatar unless there is a dramatic improvement to workers' rights, which it says often result in them being paid £5 for a 15-hour day in deadly heat.

GMB international officer Bert Schouwenburg has written to big name construction groups raising the issue.

He said: "We believe that UK companies have a particular responsibility to ensure that their Qatar-based employees, regardless of their nationality, and their sub-contractors' employees enjoy terms and conditions within globally accepted standards of 'decent work' as laid down by organisations such as the International Labour Organisation."

Under current conditions, it has been estimated that around 4,000 workers will be killed by kick-off in nine years' time. Mr Schouwenburg claims that workers "face quite appalling conditions, are treated little better than slaves and live in unacceptable squalid accommodation".

But the World Cup is proving lucrative as Qatar looks to build vast modern infrastructure on the back of the tournament. This has led to big-money contracts for British construction groups.

Balfour Beatty is advising on a $1bn (£617m) highways project and Interserve was awarded £70m worth of contracts to help the Gulf state with the exploitation of its vast natural gas reserves.

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