Carillion has begun an investigation into claims on BBC’s Newsnight that workers on its Qatar projects are being forced to work in unsafe conditions and are having wages withheld.
The programme examined site conditions on construction projects in the Gulf country in the build-up to the 2022 World Cup, which it is hosting.
Workers told the programme they were promised around £300 a month, but earn around a quarter of that after recruitment agency fees, and were unable to leave the site without permission from their employers.
One worker, identified as Imran, who said he was working for a Carillion subcontractor, said: “I have to support my parents, my wife and a child, it’s not enough. I deeply regret ever coming here, but I can’t leave, the company have my passport.”
The worker said he worked 11-hour days, living in inhumane conditions in a worker camp.
In a statement, Carillion said: “We do everything we can to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our people in Qatar, including employees of our subcontractors.
“As a leading support services and construction company, Carillion sets best in class standards for our people’s health, safety and working conditions wherever we work.
“Carillion is deeply concerned and surprised by the claims made by Newsnight concerning one of our subcontractors and one of their sub-suppliers in the programme broadcast on the 8th December. We are conducting an immediate review of these claims to establish the position and take appropriate action.”
Carillion told Newsnight it uses 50 subcontractors in Qatar and that the company which employed Imran provides labour to one of its subcontractors.
The programme showed video footage of life inside squalid labour camps.
Newsnight claimed that nearly half the deaths of Nepalese workers on the Qatar World Cup 2022 construction programme have been blamed on heart attacks to avoid compensation payments.
It said more than 1,000 migrant workers have died since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
Farah Al Muftah, chairwoman of the workers’ welfare committee for Qatar 2022, told Newsnight: “As a Qatari, it hurts me when I see people being unfairly treated.
“There are people who say that, because of human rights abuses, we should take the World Cup away. I think that actually defeats the purpose.
“If the aim is to improve the conditions, then why would you take such a great opportunity, a catalyst for change, away from the country? That will actually harm the progress that is being made.”