Construction Unions Step up World Cup Protest Campaign

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 International unions in the construction industry last week protested what they described as the systematic exploitation of workers who pay with their lives to build stadiums for sporting showcases such as the World Cup.

While global attention is focused on the treatment of migrant workers in 2022 World Cup host Qatar, unions say the situation is simply an extreme example of a wider problem.

Workers in a report by AFP, all too often pay the price for high-pressure, multi-billion dollar drives to get ready for tournaments, they say.

Brazil, where the 2014 World Cup kicks off on June 12, is no exception.
"We've had nine deaths in stadium construction alone since November," said Nilton Freitas, of the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI).

"It's related to the quick preparations for the tournament," he told AFP in Geneva at a protest rally.

The picture was similar for the 2012 European football championships in Poland and Ukraine, said Vasyl Andreyev, head of Ukraine's construction union.

"When you speed up work without proper insurance, or daily safety checks, you have accidents," he told AFP.

Andreyev charged that European football's governing body UEFA downplayed the issue and a similar charge is levelled at the global game's overseers FIFA.

As they spoke, fellow activists laid out a symbolic shrine of builders' helmets, holding banners marked 'Red Card for FIFA' and 'No World Cup without Workers' Rights'.

"FIFA generates so much money from tournaments, and nothing goes to the workers," BWI spokeswoman Genevieve Kalina told AFP.

Brazilian workers at least benefit from union protection, Freitas said, noting that the situation is very different in Russia and, starkly so, in Qatar.

"For migrant workers who represent a significant part of the work force in preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the conditions are far worse and they often find themselves exploited and in positins of forced labour," BWI chief Ambet Yuson  said in a statement.

Migrants, mostly from South Asia, form over 90 percent of energy-rich Qatar's labour force.

Human rights campaigners Amnesty International say they are treated like 'animals',mwith hundreds perishing on construction sites.

The International Trade Union Confederation warns that at current rates, as many as 4,000 might die by the time the 2022 World Cup kicks off.

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