Qatar's minister chosen to head UN labor conference after World Cup scrutiny

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Qatar's labor minister, who faced intense scrutiny over the treatment of migrant workers in the run-up to last year's soccer World Cup, he was elected Monday as president of the annual conference of the United Nations labor agency.

Asia-Pacific nations nominated Ali bin Samikh al-Marri to chair the International Labor Agency's two-week conference in Geneva. The regional groups take turns appointing the chair of the meeting.

After Qatar was named host of the 2022 World Cup, labor conditions in a country where more than 2 million immigrants work in everything from construction jobs to service industries, took center stage.

Human rights groups said workers faced unsafe working conditions, including extreme heat that had caused deaths, as well as exploitation by employers, despite reforms instituted by Qatar.

Qatari officials say the reforms have imposed stricter regulations on working conditions. They have said three workers have died in workplace accidents related to the construction of new World Cup stadiums over the past decade, along with 37 other stadium workers who have died outside the workplace during that time.

They argue that accident rates at stadiums are comparable to others around the world.

The International Labor Conference brings together government, employer and worker delegates from the agency's 187 member countries.

Al-Marri was elected without dissent to chair the meeting. The head of the workers' delegates acknowledged Qatar's reforms, but also noted that after the World Cup, unions expressed doubts "whether there was enough commitment to the additional implementation needed to address the continuing situation of workers." migrants”.

The head of the workers' delegates, Catelene Passchier, said there had been "extensive talks" in recent weeks, resulting in "a joint understanding that there is a need to re-engage and accelerate reforms and their implementation" to address the pending issues. .

In light of that, he said, "the workers' group can accept Qatar's nomination as conference chair."

Al-Marri thanked the delegates for their trust and noted "fundamental" changes in labor protection in Qatar.

“We know there is more work to be done and we are committed to doing it,” he said, adding that his country had invited two global union federations to discuss “more labor protection”.

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