The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today congratulated Barcelona football club for considering dropping its lucrative sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, over what club president Josep Maria Bartomeu described as “social issues”.
The ITF has publicly and repeatedly challenged the airline’s dictatorial treatment of its workers, and is part of the union Rerun the Vote initiative (rerunthevote.org), which aims to deprive the country of the right to stage the 2022 World Cup while it continues to shrug off the deaths and maltreatment of workers building the infrastructure for the event.
In October last year the ITF called on Barcelona FC to publicly reject further links with the airline, whose values are incompatible with those of the club. In a letter to Josep Maria Bartomeu, ITF general secretary Steve Cotton stated:
The ITF has made no secret of its belief that Qatar Airways’ sponsorship of Barcelona FC is incompatible with the club’s code of ethics, and strong social and charitable mission. Like many of your fans we have always questioned the sponsorship deal. We are confident that those fans, and indeed the club’s players, will be prouder of the club’s achievements if the company’s name is removed from their shirts.
Qatar Airways is an organisation that, in its treatment of many of its staff, shuns the values of justice and fairness that FC Barcelona seeks to uphold. The ITF has published chapter and verse listing the airline’s offences. These are so serious that we have submitted a case against the state of Qatar to the International Labour Organization*. If the World Cup were to be held in Qatar there is no doubt that the airline – an extension of the same Qatari government whose bid for it is under investigation, and which has allowed migrant workers to slave on the construction of stadia and infrastructure in conditions of appalling discomfort and danger – would play a prominent role.
In the light of this, and the work done by the ITF, International Trade Union Confederation and many others to expose conditions in Qatar and in the airline, we trust that you will make the only possible decision, and reject further sponsorship by Qatar Airways once the current deal expires. We urge you to do so, and to do so publicly.
Speaking today about the club’s decision to reconsider the sponsorship deal, Steve Cotton stated: “We’re delighted that Barca has done the right thing. It has listened to public and expert opinion. For as long as this airline and its host country shun basic rights and turn a blind eye to suffering they have no place on the shirts and the stadium of a club that is dedicated to upholding social and community values.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin stated: “Qatar is on trial not just at the ILO, but in the court of world opinion. We hope that the day will come sooner rather than later when it and its airline put justice first and abide by their human and international obligations.”