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University College London faces international pressure to improve treatment of workers on its Qatari campus

21 August 2014

University College London (UCL) is under international pressure to do more to help workers on its campus in Qatar.

  • UCU says UCL cannot wash its hands of sub-contractors' exploitation of workers in Qatar
  • UCL among eight leading institutions targeted in international campaign to stop 'modern-day slavery'
  • UCL admits concerns over working practices in Qatar that don't fit with its 'world view'

UCL is one of eight universities from the UK, US and France criticised by the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) for not clamping down on the poor treatment of workers in Qatar working on their campuses. The ITUC has recently exposed modern-day slavery of workers building for the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup.

UCU is backing the campaign and said it was disappointed UCL had not accepted responsibility for the welfare of people working on its Qatari campus. UCU said that the university should be setting an example to the rest of the world through challenging human rights violations and promoting academic freedoms, not using sub-contractors to try and discharge itself of responsibility.

In a letter to the ITUC, UCL claimed the ITUC's examples of workers being exploited were employed by sub-contracting firms contracted by the Qatar Foundation. UCL said it has no direct influence over the sub-contractors, even if their practices do not fit its 'world view'. It does concede that it is concerned about working conditions in Qatar.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Our universities have a duty to ensure that people working on their foreign campuses have access to the same rights as they would be afforded in the UK. UCL should be using its influence to end this type of modern-day slavery and challenge practices that risk curtailing important academic freedoms. Hiding behind sub-contractors is indefensible.'

UCU will be working with the ITUC to promote a petition that calls for an end modern day slavery on campuses. For copies of the correspondence between the ITUC and UCL, contact the UCU press office.

Last updated: 10 December 2015