• Sáb. Jul 13th, 2024

-> Noticias de futbol internacional

Special report: Newcastle United sponsor Noon and shocking allegations of worker mistreatment

The Athletic


When Irfan moved from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia three years ago, he thought he was delivering a better life to his family. Now, he is terrified.

“We got to the accommodation, and the logistics were not good, the facilities were not good, and the food was not good,” he says. “We were not provided with the salary we were promised.

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“We brought these things up with the supply company. The agency manager put some of us in the storehouse without food and physically abused us, beat us.

He is speaking about his first days in Saudi Arabia, and life at the supply company through which he worked for Newcastle United’s sleeve sponsor, Noon.

“If anyone knows I am passing information on about the company, I will be in big, big trouble,” he stammers over the phone, having walked 10 minutes away from his accommodation, far out of earshot. He is not using his real name. “They will fine me 20,000 (Saudi) riyals, these people would make me stay in Saudi forever.”

Even before he began his first shift at Noon’s Riyadh warehouse, Irfan realised things were majorly wrong.

“It happens time and time again,” he says of the abuse meted out by the agency who supply Noon with workers. “It’s regular. When I arrived it was Ramadan, I was fasting, I had no money, and I had my family to support. Without me, they will not have food. My salary did not come for the first three months.

“When I went again to ask for it, I was physically pushed out of the office. I went back to my bunk and cried.”

Irfan left Noon this March, but still works for the supply company. He says the agency took his Pakistani passport, a breach of local and international labour laws.

Noon, the Gulf’s largest online retailer, has been Newcastle’s sleeve sponsor for the past two years. Its circular logo is prominent on the club’s shirt, stadium, and website. It will be there again next season — despite multiple allegations unearthed by The Athletic of serious worker mistreatment within the company’s supply chain and shared with Newcastle before the release of the club’s new Adidas kit.

A year before it was announced as Newcastle’s sleeve sponsor, Noon struck a deal with Emirati-owned Manchester City, becoming a “regional partner” of the Premier League champions, and hosting the trophy in its offices. Though Noon is a far less prominent partner at City than it is at Newcastle, not appearing on the shirt or stadium, the relationship is still operative.

Irfan is one of 12 workers from across the Gulf to whom The Athletic has spoken over recent months as part of a special investigation into labour conditions at Noon and, as in Irfan’s case, at agencies that supply Noon with migrant workers.

The issues uncovered in the investigation include:

  • Examples of physical abuse at supply companies
  • The withholding of wages at supply companies
  • Evidence of law-breaking surrounding overtime hours at Noon and supply companies
  • Deception surrounding recruitment at supply companies
  • Abusive working conditions at Noon and supply companies
  • Racial or nationality-based discrimination at Noon and supply companies
  • Supply companies charging workers illegal recruitment fees

Sara, a driver, speaks of being “treated like machines or horses, not human beings”. Rohit, a warehouse worker, says he suffered “mental violence” over meeting targets. “It was suicide working there,” says Nancy.

Across these testimonies, Noon workers have reported all 11 of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) forced labour indicators. The Athletic has shared details of the alleged abuses with several human rights charities and researchers, including Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare, and Equidem, which all say that the reports appear to be examples of forced labour within Noon’s supply chain as defined by the ILO — which is regarded in international law as a form of modern slavery.

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After reviewing The Athletic’s research, and using international labour standards, those organisations have also ratified the reported experience of several workers as cases of human trafficking for labour exploitation within Noon’s supply chain.

Although some workers are hired through agencies, Noon still has the responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to audit its supply chain — it is the one hiring the workers, paying wages, whose business is reliant on their labour.

ILO forced labour indicators
Indicator Definition
Abuse of vulnerability
Taking advantage of a worker’s lack of knowledge and/or means, or exploiting their dependency on the employer
Deception
Failure to deliver what has been promised to the worker, either verbally or in writing
Restriction of movement
Inability to enter and exit either the work premises or company-provided housing freely
Isolation
When the worksite or company-provided housing is situated in a remote location, away from public eyes
Physical or sexual violence
Use of violence as a threat or punishment
Use of threats
Intimidation when a worker complains or asks to leave their job, also including psychological coercion
Retention of identity documents
Taking a worker’s documents is a form of entrapment, making it difficult to change jobs or leave the country
Withholding of wages
Wages being systematically or deliberately misheld to compel the worker to remain in employment
Debt bondage
When employees are working in an attempt to pay off an incurred debt, in practice often linked to illegal visa payments
Abusive working or living conditions
Enduring hazardous or degrading conditions which workers would never freely accept
Excessive overtime
Being forced to work excessive hours or days beyond the limits prescribed by national law, under some form of threat

The accusations raise serious questions for Noon, its partners Newcastle and Manchester City, and the Premier League about the levels of due diligence undertaken, the way sponsorship deals are policed by the league and what action, if any, it will take in light of these findings.

The allegations also appear to contravene the modern slavery statement on Newcastle’s website, which says: “Since taking over the club in October 2021, the new owners have continued to make it a priority to ensure that we trade ethically, source responsibly and work to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking throughout our organisation and in our supply chain. We are committed to improving our practices to combat modern slavery and human trafficking in our business and keep our compliance under review.”

“Modern slavery appears to be prevalent at one of its biggest sponsors, a company that is half-owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF),” says Mustafa Qadri, Equidem’s executive director.

“Practices within their supply chain such as debt bondage, illegal recruitment charges, overwork, harassment and other exploitation are simply unacceptable and should disqualify Noon from being a sponsor.

“Ultimately, this is the great concern about Saudi investment in global football and sport more generally — profits are being placed ahead of human rights.”

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Newcastle and Manchester City completed due diligence processes on their deals and remain supportive of Noon but declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic. PIF also declined to comment. A Noon spokesperson referred to the size, scope and sophistication of the company’s operation, and denied all the claims, saying: “Noon strongly refutes these allegations as grossly inaccurate misrepresentations.

“The company’s commitment to employee welfare is fundamental to its operations. As a result, Noon adheres to and, where possible, exceeds, industry global best practices.

“The company maintains full compliance with local health and safety standards and applicable laws, reinforced by stringent internal and independent audit processes. Our entire approach to employee welfare is underpinned by real-time insights from our state-of-the-art data systems.”


Newcastle’s 2024-25 shirt includes the Noon logo (Newcastle United)

The Athletic shared details of this investigation with the Premier League before publication, asking whether it deemed Noon a suitable sponsor, and whether it would investigate the issues raised.

In response, the Premier League declined to formally comment but the view within the organisation is that the identity of sponsorship partners is a matter for individual clubs.

“The Premier League claims to have a ‘zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery and human trafficking’,” says Nick McGeehan, director at human rights researchers FairSquare.

“If that’s genuinely the case, these allegations should be of profound concern to them.”


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In June 2022, Newcastle announced Noon as the club’s official sleeve partner. The deal, worth a reported £7.5million ($9.5m) per season, was called “record-breaking” by the club, who proclaimed it would provide them “with new ways to engage with fans in the Middle East”.

Deals like this are now the centrepiece of Newcastle’s off-field strategy — a club racing to generate revenue to compete in an era of financial fair play, a set of rules in football that ties how much a club can spend on areas such as player transfer fees and wages to how much money it generates. Newcastle’s aim, according to chief commercial officer Peter Silverstone, is “to become the most supported Premier League club in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region”.

The club says their supporter base in the Middle East has grown by 600 per cent but, for others, Noon’s sponsorship has had the opposite effect.

“When Noon bought Namshi, I was excited that Newcastle were now part of our family,” says Rohit, a warehouse worker who previously worked for Namshi, a rival e-commerce platform, and is now directly contracted to Noon after a takeover.

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“I’d seen the logo on the shirt, I knew they were partners of Noon. I remember watching them play Manchester City and supporting Newcastle. Every time there was a football game with Newcastle in it, we workers would support them.

“But after seeing Noon’s behaviour, I wanted to forget that Newcastle were my team. They do not listen to us, they do not care for us, and when we try to complain, they always tell us they will do it later.

“And so I removed all thoughts of Newcastle from my mind. If Newcastle are playing, I will always support the other team.”

Newcastle’s choice of Noon as a sponsor is also inseparable from the club’s owners.

Noon was founded in 2016 by Mohamed Alabbar, one of Dubai’s most well-known businessmen and the driving force behind the construction of the world’s tallest building — the 830-metre Burj Khalifa. By November 2016, Saudi Arabia’s PIF announced its purchase of a 50 per cent stake in the business, which employs more than 10,000 workers across the Middle East. Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan (who is also governor of PIF) became chair of Noon’s board the same year.

Five years later, PIF bought 80 per cent of Newcastle in a £300m deal. Noon is now one of Newcastle’s three Saudi-owned partners or sponsors, alongside events company Sela and airline Saudia.

In response, Premier League clubs mobilised in an attempt to block associated-party transactions — sponsorship deals where both parties were owned or influenced by the same entity — fearful it might become a loophole through which Newcastle could get around the league’s profitability and sustainability regulations and spend their way into the elite.

This week, Manchester City began private arbitration with the Premier League over the associated party transaction rules, claiming they breach anti-competition law. The implications could reshape the Premier League’s financial order.

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The Premier League has previously investigated several of Newcastle’s sponsorship deals, including the one with Noon, but only through the lens of financial fair play. What neither rival clubs nor the league spoke about in this context, despite the prominent discussion of human rights issues in the region, was whether Noon was a suitable sponsor at all.

The 12 workers spoken to by The Athletic have been independently verified as working for Noon using documents such as contracts, visas, photographs, termination notices and uniforms. Several are not using their real names because they still work for either Noon or its supply company, and fear any reprisal that could come from sharing information.

These 12 were based across both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and had migrated to the Middle East from one of six countries. There is a range of men and women, from seven Noon facilities, and across several roles, including delivery drivers, quality checkers, and warehouse pickers. The majority work directly for Noon, others were hired by the retailer to deliver its packages or work in its warehouses via supply companies.

The workers were initially identified with the assistance of Equidem, a human rights organisation that specialises in labour rights in the region. Equidem has spoken to a further 46 workers across the Gulf.


Shakir’s story: ‘So many guys left because of kidney problems’

Shakir’s shifts are typically at least 12 hours long, with four hours of total travel. His monthly salary means he can only afford a bed space in a single room of 11 people, 61 kilometres (about 38 miles) from the warehouse.

Shakir is contracted to Noon directly, working as a warehouse assistant — checking orders, packaging it up and sending it to delivery. There are usually two or three hours of overtime per day.

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“We are a family of 10 but my father passed away in 2022,” he says, explaining why he left Pakistan. “He was a furniture carpenter and I helped him. But he’d had hepatitis since 2014, and because of his health, had to stop. Now I’m taking care of them all.

“After he got sick, I could only earn 600 Pakistani rupees (£1.72) each day. It was not enough — so my mother sold her gold to pay for my visa to the UAE.”

In the Middle East, he quickly realised that life would become even tougher — and that he risked developing his own health conditions. With no choice but to provide for his family, he has continued to work.

“The main problem is achieving our hourly target, 90 units per hour,” he explains. “If we managed one unit less than our target, the team leader would ask why we didn’t hit it.

“Because of this hourly target, we wouldn’t drink water. If we had to drink water, we would have to go to the washroom. There are five washrooms for 400 people inside the warehouse, so that would take us 10 minutes and we wouldn’t hit our target.

“So many guys left Noon because of kidney problems.”

If he had to take sick leave, he claims Noon wanted to see a Dubai Healthcare Authority Certificate, which cost 90 UAE dirham (AED, around £20) each time, which he says was too expensive on his salary. Without it, sick leave was deemed unauthorised.


Noon’s headquarters in the United Arab Emirates (Christopher Pike/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Matters worsened during Ramadan in March. The Athletic has seen documentation showing that the shift pattern at Shakir’s warehouse increased from a basic nine hours plus overtime to 12 hours plus overtime. There are more packages during holidays.

This appears to be a breach of labour laws — last year, the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) introduced a regulation that barred workers, anywhere other than in two particular ‘freezones’, from working more than six hours a day during Ramadan, plus a maximum of two hours overtime. Shakir says his warehouse is not in one of those two zones and is not subject to any exemptions.

Shakir, who is Muslim and was fasting, was also not given his usual day off — at one point, he says he worked 14 days straight, with just two rest days in the entire month. He typically had to work later than Iftar, delaying him from breaking his fast, before beginning the two-hour journey home.

“Because my duty is standing in one place for 12 hours, we would feel pain all over our bodies, especially in my legs,” he says. “The sides would burn.

“During Ramadan, after they cancelled my days off, my weight dropped by five kilograms.”


Wilson’s story: ‘I cannot let my son die when I’m not at home’

“Honestly?” reads the text. “I got traumatised by that company and I don’t wanna go back there. Thank you.”

Not every worker contacted wanted to share their experiences of working for Noon. But both Wilson and Nancy, two Ugandans who worked directly for Noon as delivery drivers, wanted to talk about the abusive working conditions they faced while making 150-200 deliveries each day.

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Though delivery drivers in the United Kingdom or the United States may complete similar numbers, or more, their routes are far more optimised — Noon drivers complain of having to deliver rapidly to disparate parts of the city.

They claim it was regular to work long shifts, beginning at 7am and finishing at midnight. If they failed to hit their delivery quota, bringing packages back to the warehouse, they say they would be written up and face termination.

“You would feel like you had malaria, just from the fatigue. You have a headache, you’re sweating a lot, you’re losing a lot of water. They could torture us mentally,” says Nancy.

“We were treated like machines or horses, not human beings,” adds Sara, a third driver.

The work was also risky. Saudi Arabia, for example, has some of the most dangerous roads in the world. Government statistics reported 19,000 road deaths in 2020 — half of the tally in the U.S., despite having one-tenth of the population. One Saudi-based worker said that they directly knew of three serious accidents involving delivery drivers, including one Noon employee.

Though the UAE is slightly better, according to fatality statistics, government figures show that the number of people injured in road collisions almost doubled last year.

Once, Wilson had been given a VIP package, which required prioritisation. The client was racing to catch a plane, and ringing him from their airport taxi for delivery updates. Wilson says that managers told them to always keep their phone in the car with them and use it, breaking the law: “Every time you don’t pick up the phone, even if it’s one missed call, you’re reported to HR.

“There is a moment where the support team is calling me, the manager is calling me, a customer is calling me, I’m driving, I’m loaded up with packages, and I haven’t reached even half of the normal packages I have to deliver,” Wilson says.

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“I reached a light, and the customer realised they were passing me in their taxi. He cut right back into my lane — and that’s how the accident happened. Remember you’re tired already, and everything is in a hurry.”

As a result of the incident, he was suspended without pay for two weeks.

Around the same time, Nancy complained to her supervisor about her working hours. None of the delivery drivers say they were paid for overtime they had to work to finish their scheduled runs.

“There was no mercy, no remorse,” she says. “I was in my car, truly crying. I begged him, if I’d ever offended him in my life, to forgive me. Maybe I did something unknowingly? The way I was treated, it was like hatred.”

The response was termination — but though she was sorry to lose the job, in some ways she was grateful.

“By this time, I was sick from working too much, my feet were swollen, I had blisters, I got an infection in my legs,” says Nancy. “I got one day of sick leave.

“It was suicide working there. I wanted my health first, my life first.”

Wilson says he once showed his supervisor an X-ray, which showed evidence of cracking at the bottom of his backbone. The HR department accused him of pretending.

“It was a scan from a hospital,” he says. “How could I bribe a doctor?”

Back in Uganda, an emergency arose. Wilson’s son had been diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour that required immediate surgery, followed by chemotherapy. He had previously asked for leave to return home for a short visit, and was already over the five-month notice period required — yet when he asked to move the date forward as an emergency, this was not allowed.


Wilson’s son, middle in the orange top, has now recovered (Wilson)

“They told me it was not their problem, that my son was not part of the company,” he says. “I told them I needed to go because I cannot let my son die when I’m not home.”

Wilson made it home in time and his son recovered. But as he landed back in the UAE, his phone pinged. His salary had been frozen.

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After returning, he worked for three months without pay — eventually taking the company to court. In documents seen by The Athletic, Noon paid him his salary after he dropped the case. He says he was later racially abused by supervisors.

“You Black people want to behave like lawyers — but soon you will be eliminated,” Wilson claims he was told. Numerous workers have reported nationality-based discrimination and favouritism.

His contract was terminated soon after he received his salary.


Irfan and Nabeel’s story: ‘I wish I had stayed’

According to testimonies given to The Athletic, the very worst conditions have been experienced by those who are part of the supply companies that provide hundreds of migrant workers to Noon.

They face a range of abuses throughout their employment — sometimes asked to make illegal visa payments to enter the country, frequently housed in inhumane and remote accommodation once in the Gulf, before they are tied to the supply company, with their wages siphoned while working inhumane hours. These supply companies are frequently ill-documented, without websites or even registered addresses.

While living in Lucknow, a city in northern India, Nabeel’s father and brother died due to Covid-19. He had taken out a large loan to treat them, and was now in debt. Around the same time, his landlord served notice on his rented printing shop.

His wife sold her jewellery and Nabeel sold his car to pay a recruiter who had promised him a Saudi Arabian visa. Examples of recruitment fees documented by The Athletic ranged from £760 to £3,640. These are illegal under international labour standards, as well as Emirati and Saudi Arabian law.

The company Nabeel joined was called Al-Mutairi, which also provides workers to Amazon, and whose human rights abuses were exposed by Amnesty International in a report published last October. Amazon has since launched an investigation, and is now beginning to pay compensation to workers who have been adversely affected. Migrant workers make up about 77 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s private sector workforce.

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The Athletic asked Noon if it had continued to employ workers from Al-Mutairi, or if it had audited the company, since the Amnesty report. Noon did not address this point in its response.

Workers at other agencies feel they were misled in their home country into believing they would be working for Noon directly, when their contract was actually with the supply company. This includes Sajjad, using his real name, who is now back in Bangladesh. He says he was recruited by a friend, who had been duped by recruiters.

“The migration cost was huge — around 450,000 Bangladeshi taka (£3,277, $4,167), including all the medicals, certificates, passports, visas, everything,” says Sajjad. “I’d been told I’d receive lots of benefits if I joined Noon.


Sajjad working at Noon (Sajjad)

“When I arrived, I didn’t get a job or a salary. It was then that I found out it wasn’t Noon, but a supply company. When I eventually started at Noon, my salary was also different to the contract — the supply company deducted money.”

Irfan had a similar experience. “I paid 500,000 Bangladeshi taka and I thought that I would be directly hired by Noon — but that was not the case,” he says. “I worked instead for a Saudi intermediary, who had sent a bundle of 100 visas to Bangladesh — deceiving us by saying they were for Noon.”

Nabeel, who worked for Noon through Al-Mutairi, also reported deception. Amnesty’s investigation into labour rights at Amazon recorded several of their own examples of workers contracted to Al-Mutairi being exploited in this way. Al-Mutairi did not respond to a request for comment.

This sort of deception — in addition to accommodation conditions, working conditions and debt bondage — amounts to a form of modern slavery, according to Equidem, Anti-Slavery International and Amnesty International, using ILO definitions.

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Given the severity of some cases, those organisations say the abuse experienced by some workers may amount to what international law and standards define as human trafficking by the agencies for the purpose of labour exploitation.

According to the ILO, indicators of this include “the recruitment of a person by use of force or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation”, with indicators including deceptive recruitment, coercive recruitment, recruitment by abuse of vulnerability, exploitative conditions at work, and coercion at destination. Two strong indicators result in a positive assessment.

When Nabeel arrived in Saudi Arabia, he was placed in shared accommodation far away from the city in a mountainous area — meaning he could not easily leave. His experience was similar to Irfan’s, who stayed 40km south east of Riyadh in accommodation provided by another supply company.

“There is a big hall with bunkbeds in,” Nabeel describes. “There are 30 beds there, but just one bathroom and one kitchen, which made it really difficult.

“When I started at Noon, they told me what my (monthly) salary would be if I completed the delivery quote. But I found it very difficult to hit those targets and when my first salary came, it was much lower than that. It would have been much better to stay in India — now, I might have to sell my house back there.”

It is standard practice for supply agencies to be paid by the hiring company and to take cuts of their employees’ salaries.

“I am paid eight riyals (£1.70) for any hour of overtime work,” adds Irfan. “But the supply company gets more than that.”

Nabeel complained to his manager over the deductions.

“I then said I wanted to transfer to a different company,” he remembers. “He got really angry and searched my body, taking out my licence, my iqama (a residence permit for migrant workers) and 10 riyals. He took my licence and iqama, and only did not take my money because it was so little.

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“By taking my iqama, he was trying to intimidate me and stop me from changing jobs. I have seen my friends being assaulted by the manager — he would catch them by the shirt collar and threaten them, shout in their face. This has happened three or four times.

“This time, he also threatened to send me to jail. He said that they had spent 20,000 riyals in recruiting me, getting my licence, so I owed him 20,000 riyals. I don’t earn that money — so he said he would send me to jail.

“He isolated me by keeping me in a separate room. Later, he let me go.”

With only the money in his pocket, he called a friend to drive out to the mountains in his taxi, who helped him escape. Nabeel calls it too dangerous to return.


Sajjad’s home in Bangladesh (Sajjad)

According to several workers, Noon is aware of some abuses that its employees are facing.

“Noon itself is not bad,” says Irfan. “But it is the intermediaries who are taking money, paying us late. Of course, it is the responsibility of Noon to look at its suppliers. The company is being paid by Noon — they need to make sure it’s going to the worker.

“Once, a Noon inspector came to our camp, they went inside the bathroom where there was only a bucket. We asked to go into the office with him but were not allowed. We saw him go there after the inspection, have a conversation, but there were not any changes.”

Sajjad agrees. “I told them verbally that I wasn’t being paid, and about the other labour violations,” he says. “Noon asked me for my opinion. I told them that we were in the worst situation, being harassed, (that) our rights were being harmed. But nothing happened.”

“Noon made a strategy,” claims Jack, a Pakistani worker in the UAE. “They use people from outsourced contractors, they only give their own company visa to a small number of workers. This is for their safety because when they give employees a visa, that means they have better benefits.

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“They don’t want to give us that — and so they take people from contractors, and work us like donkeys.”

According to Amnesty, the reported experiences of these workers bear resemblance to its investigation into workers in Amazon facilities in Saudi Arabia.

“Many of these abuses seem to be reflected in the experiences of Noon workers too — something that is far too common due to Saudi Arabia’s exploitative labour system and the failure of many companies to take their human rights responsibilities seriously,” says Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of labour rights and sport.

“Like any other business, football clubs should be undertaking rigorous due diligence to identify and respond to human rights risks associated with their business partners, including sponsors from whom they receive funds and to whom they give global visibility. Given that Newcastle United’s owners are also the main investor in Noon, this is a clear case of ‘they should have known’.

“This incredibly close connection between Newcastle United and Noon also means that the football club has significant leverage that it must now use to address these allegations of exploitation in its value chain.”


Rishabh and Rohit’s story: ‘Pressure doesn’t explain it…’

Equidem, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have highlighted a wide range of labour rights violations across Gulf countries — many of these due to the abusive kafala system that first came to the wider world’s attention during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The kafala system connects the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer — meaning, in practice, that workers are at risk of deportation if they ask for better working conditions or seek to change jobs.

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However, even within this context, workers have complained of Noon’s standards. Rishabh and Rohit, both using fake names, work directly for the company in the UAE in quality control. The pair were previously employed by Namshi, a retailer that was taken over by Noon last year. They say matters immediately worsened.

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“We were being treated as a family at Namshi,” says Rishabh. “Best company I have ever worked for. But this turned into a nightmare after we were acquired by Noon. Namshi used to book stadium tickets for us to keep us mentally stress-free.

“But on the first day Noon were in charge, the HR team announced they would not be offering any of our benefits, and reduced the salary we had spent nine years earning. We were given very little time to decide whether to accept it or resign.”

Rohit moved to the UAE after his home was destroyed in the 2015 Nepal earthquake, which left 3.5million people homeless. He says that he had been able to rebuild his life — but after the takeover, saw his monthly salary reduced from an average of 5,100 AED (£1,090) to a flat 3,500 AED.

“They reduced the salaries of 95 per cent of the workers,” he says. “They behaved as if we were nothing.”


Newcastle United and Manchester City count Noon as a partner (Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Noon implemented new working hours.

“There were no basic overtime payments as per the UAE government’s regulations,” says Rishabh. “Then, on public holidays, the overtime rate is the same — it should be 25 per cent extra. They will order you to do overtime just before the shift ends and you have to do it — no excuse.”

“Noon threatens each of the workers,” says Rohit. “If we aren’t meeting the target, we’re told we will be terminated. It’s not physical violence, but it’s mental violence.”

“That word pressure doesn’t explain it,” adds Rishabh. “They need to invent a new word. Every day my alarm goes off in the morning, and I don’t want to go back to that place. But I’ve got a baby coming and I’m compelled to go.”

Rohit says that he suffered skin allergies because of the heat inside the warehouse — the AC disappeared after Noon’s takeover. He says his supervisor told him that, though he suffered from the same issue himself, he would have to sack Rohit if he took another sick day. He says another of his friends broke his arm during a shift and was unable to work. He ended up having to go back to India.

“It is not just one staff, two staff, or three staff — all the staff at the company feel this way,” says Rohit.

One year after the takeover, he says just 30 of the original 150 workers in their warehouse remain after being terminated or quitting.

(Top photo: Getty Images)