A routine report, based on testimonials collected from workers returning to India and Nepal from the Gulf, especially Qatar, has elicited sharp reactions from a leading member of the international labour union community.
This report shows how the World Solidarity Movement (WSM), a Brussels-based NGO, HAS persuaded a set of workers on their way back home to India and Nepal from Qatar, to reportedly speak about their alleged poor working conditions.
The WSM was reportedly helped by inputs from GEFONT (a Nepal-based ITUC affiliate), among others, that identified the workers to be interviewed. The report, published on the ITUC website, is a collection of damaging testimonials from around ten workers, from both labour supplying countries.
ITUC Asia Pacific Vice-President, Dr. G. Sanjeeva Reddy, who is also president of the India’s largest trade union, INTUC, and a former member of Indian parliament, is not impressed by this report, adding that he has been told by reliable sources of its lack of transparency.
Dr.Reddy says that he has written a letter to Guy Ryder, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and urged him to look into the matter.
Maintaining that certain organisations are bringing disrepute to the trade union and worker fraternity, Reddy in his letter to Ryeder said, “In the recent past, ITUC has faced criticism from several quarters for its aggression towards Middle East regions like Qatar and UAE. While it is our job to raise our voice against atrocities that the workers are facing all over the world, we need to be careful of not coming across as an organisation with specific interests.”
Reddy further says in his letter, “World Solidarity Movement (WSM), a Belgium-based NGO, is working in collaboration with local trade unions in India and Nepal with the agenda-based objective of collecting negative testimonials from workers returning home from the Gulf … This practice of taking testimonials of workers to enquire about their working and living conditions has been known to be misued to target certain entities … We need to stop this exploitation and adopt more engaging and meaningful means for their welfare.” Having dedicated his life to the welfare of workers not just in India, but across Asia, Dr.Reddy has questioned the role of the WSM, which is considered a proxy of ITUC.
Of late, the ITUC, led by Sharon Burrow, has faced criticism over its reported over projection of death tolls of workers at FIFA 2022 sports construction sites without evidence. Dr. Reddy is of the view that ITUC is now using the WSM to spread the same kind of allegations.
Indeed, in a completely documented file brought to the knowledge of the ILO, it appears that the WSM had paid GEFONT and Tamil Nadu-based NDMW in Euros to to look out for ‘returning’ workers, who may have need for a financial incentive to testify about their work-related experiences.
Dr. Reddy has asked ITUC headquarters to take a position based on THE evidences gathered. He has asked whether the world’S largest trade union confederation has a stake in the WSM project and to what extent?
Suggesting that testimonials can be manipulated, either for good and bad, he says, “What matters is a collective effort towards the realization of workers’ dreams. That takes ground work, not manipulation of new age media.” Ever since Qatar was awarded the right to host FIFA World Cup 2022, it has faced frequent criticism, and this has had an impact on meeting infrastructure-related deadlines, either for the World Cup, or for the Olympics.
Numerous reforms have been taken by the Government of Qatar with the support of THE ILO, but it is being reported that the unprofessional actions of some side organization has damaged efforts to enhance the quality of life of migrant workers.
The decisive steps taken by Qatar to improve the working conditions of migrants has left neighbouring Gulf nations embarrassed in terms of them not meeting their international commitments in integrating globally acceptable worker conditions.
According to western and Indian trade union observers who prefer to remain Anonymous, trade unions should work together for the benefit of all workers and not be counter-productive to each other. But there is a disconnect — ITUC has persistently put its money and focus on ruining any little hope, through propaganda, that Gulf nations like Qatar have of rectifying and bettering rules that govern a just society.
TUC, a United Kingdom-based organization, has reportedly started a campaign targeting FIFA to put pressure on Qatar to ensure that proper health and safety and work conditions are applied, which they are actually doing. A Dutch labour union is also reportedly threatening legal proceedings against FIFA should the governing body not step in to halt what it called “modern slavery” at FIFA 2022 construction venues.
Both unions are affiliates of the Brussels-based ITUC, and maybe, are being used to institutionally harass a country that is trying quite hard to change in the face of some harrowing challenges.