Deaths, abuses and cases of unpaid workers are marring Russia’s preparations of the 2018 World Cup.
A report by Human Right Watch released on Thursday revealed the scenario, tainting the country’s bid to showcase a worry-free football spectacle.
The HRW’s 34-page report was based on interviews with 42 workers at six venues.
It reveals among others that workers building stadiums for next year’s event endured repeated abuses and were being unpaid for several months.
As for the fatalities, a total of 17 workers have already perished in various construction sites.
In another incident, some workers were said to be required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius (minus-13 Fahrenheit). Making that worse is they do their job without sufficient breaks for them to warm themselves.
A worker from South Korea, meanwhile, died of heart attack at a stadium in St. Petersburg, venue of the Confederations Cup final on July 2. It will also host matches during the World Cup.
In a recent talk with The Associated Press, Jane Buchanan, the author of the HRW report said: “FIFA is essentially expecting us to take their word for it that their work has improved workers’ lives. This is supposed to be the reformed FIFA, moving away from secrecy and a lot of deals behind closed doors.’’
Workers killed in falls and the case of a worker from North Korea who died of a reported heart attack at the stadium in St. Petersburg, which will host the final of the Confederations Cup on July 2, as well as World Cup matches in 2018.
And eight-team meet, the Confederations Cup starts on June 17 and this is mainly regarded as vital test for Russia as far as their preparations and readiness for the World Cup are concerned.
In another case, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the governing body had “strong evidence’’ that North Koreans are working at the St. Petersburg site.
FIFA said they are aware of and firmly condemns the often appalling labour conditions “under which North Korean workers are employed in various countries around the world.’’
The HRW claims Russian authorities are not acting to reprimand employers who cheat workers out of salaries, including many migrants with little legal protection.
To sum up their plight, one worker from Kyrgystan said the employers “ pay whenever they want, however they want.’’
The report also said workers demanding full payment sometimes are fired from their jobs by employers.
To avoid such malpractices from getting into a full-blown dilemma, the HRW called on the Russian government to enact tougher and more frequent probes of erring employers and mete prosecutions against those who fail to comply with the rules.
Likewise, HRW urged FIFA to speak out on workers’ issues and of operating a flawed inspection program of their own. The group claimed only partial results are made public.
In response, FIFA said there had seen a sharp decrease in “the number of issues’’ at the construction sites. However, they did not specify a timeframe or the total number of incidents.
FIFA are also under pressure to safeguard workers’ rights for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In the host country, construction work is largely done by migrant workers who often have few legal rights.
HRW said it is now the time for FIFA act on the matters with an iron fist, and without letup.
There is still plenty of time to correct the wrongs currently plaguing Russia’s preparations.
The HRW are right. FIFA must join forces with Russian organizers and other related entities to ensure a trouble-free and successful holding of the 2018 World Cup.