More than three-dozen Filipino workers who helped build stadiums and other facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer events in Qatar have filed a lawsuit against Jacobs Solutions Inc. alleging they were trafficked and forced to work on the project under grueling conditions.
Jacobs subsidiary CH2M Hill Cos. managed the multibillion-dollar project, which included seven stadiums, upgrades to one other stadium and related infrastructure work. Jacobs acquired the firm in 2017 while work was still underway.
None of the workers in the suit worked directly for either firm. But their attorneys wrote that as program manager, the companies were “responsible for ensuring that proper labor standards and practices were followed by contractors and subcontractors in the venture.”
The 38 workers, identified only by their initials in the complaint filed in federal court in Denver, say their passports were confiscated after arriving in Qatar, preventing them from leaving. Once there, they say they were in some cases made to work 24 hours or longer straight and denied promised pay while living in squalid conditions.
Alleged human rights abuses related to the project have been reported by various nongovernmental organizations, news outlets and others. Qatar officials have admitted to between 400 and 500 migrant worker deaths on the project, although officially released figures and estimates by outside groups have varied.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy hired CH2M in 2012 as program manager of its World Cup Construction Venture.
“In this role, CH2M and Jacobs had significant access to the stadiums, influence over and oversight of the work done at the stadiums, managerial authority, auditing rights and control over other companies that worked together to construct and deliver the stadiums for the World Cup Construction Venture,” the complaint states.
In a statement, Jacobs said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit or had the opportunity to review the allegations.
“As a purpose-led company, we are committed to respecting the human rights and dignity of those within our operations and where we do business,” the company said. “In all projects across the 40-plus countries in which we operate, we have prioritized health, safety and wellbeing, partnering with clients and suppliers to develop innovative approaches that improve the lives of workers and other stakeholders.”
While the plaintiffs are from the Philippines, the project reportedly also relied on migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and other countries.