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Global union files complaints against Saudi with the ILO; accuses the Kingdom of complicity in forced labour

On June 9, 2024

The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) has filed two complaints against Saudi Arabia with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), emphasising the widespread human rights abuse of migrant workers in the Kingdom, including forced labour. The cases highlighted involve over 20,000 construction workers who are victims of wage theft and other labour abuses.

In a press release BWI stated, “ As Saudi Arabia positions itself to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup, this complaint demands immediate attention from FIFA and the international community. FIFA is expected to receive the single bid for the 2034 World Cup host in July. The complaint calls for a thorough ILO investigation into these violations, emphasizing the urgent need for remedy and adherence to international labour standards [...] These abuses are compounded by Saudi Arabia's failure to uphold several ratified conventions, including Convention 29 on Forced Labour.”

Based on findings of aggregated cases received from various human rights organisations, BWI says indicators of forced labour as defined by the ILO are rampant. About 85% of respondents were victims of debt bondage, 65% had their passports and identity documents confiscated, 63% faced restrictions on terminating and exiting employment contracts and 46% reported wages being withheld.

BWI General Secretary, Ambet Yuson, said “Saudi Arabia, where trade unions are banned, blatantly disregards international labour standards and fails to compensate migrant workers who have suffered abuses for over a decade. With FIFA’s decision on the 2034 World Cup bid looming and required construction of at least ten new stadiums and infrastructure, it is imperative for FIFA and Saudi Arabia to resolve the outstanding wages of over 20,000 workers for whom we have provided evidence, and to establish mechanisms that prevent any further abuse before even considering the bid. FIFA must stop placing itself above international labour norms and its own human rights statutory obligations.”