Home News France said it hosted the Games safely. Migrant workers do not count.

France said it hosted the Games safely. Migrant workers do not count.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to hold the Summer Olympics safely and avoid the construction hazards and abuse of migrant workers that have plagued the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

A few months before the Paris Olympics, he declared success.

“We are fulfilling the commitments we made,” Mr. Macron said in February.

Government figures show fewer than 200 people were injured at Olympic venues during the four-year construction blitz. And there is no death.

But inspection records and other documents show the Olympic venues are more dangerous than organizers have let on, with some events failing to meet basic safety standards. When undocumented immigrants are injured on the job, the injuries are often recorded on the books, virtually guaranteeing they won’t show up in government statistics, workers and officials said.

Even fatal accidents involving legally working workers are sometimes ignored in Olympic statistics.

When two workers died on a metro project that Macron’s former transport minister called the “lifeline of the Olympics,” their deaths were not included in the Games’ overall death toll.

A truck crushed a man to death while he was helping to build a cesspool for a swimming competition on the Seine, and his death was omitted from Olympic statistics. “Administratively, it’s put in another category,” said Paul Duphil, executive secretary of France’s quasi-governmental building safety regulator.

This is because of how the French government defines Olympic venues. Accidents at the Olympic Village were counted, but not at the nearby Pleyel Tower, a nearby skyscraper that has been converted into a luxury hotel for the Olympics. The work of the media center is important, but the construction of the giant pedestrian bridge, which the local government says is “the heart of the Olympic project”, is not.

In an industry where injuries are almost inevitable, France’s data are sometimes very raw: The city of Marseille told the New York Times that not even a single minor injury occurred during the dredging and construction of the Olympic Terminal. , a facility on the Mediterranean that hosts sailing competitions.

Workers, union officials and some labor inspectors say all this is part of Mr Macron’s effort to keep France shining in the Olympics spotlight. “This allows them to say France is not Qatar,” said Simon Picou, a union representative to the government’s labor inspectorate.

Documents and interviews with government officials, inspectors and more than a dozen workers suggest that undocumented immigrants play a larger role and riskier role in staging the Olympics than Macron’s government has acknowledged. Undocumented workers say they are forced to perform hazardous work for long periods of time without safety glasses, safety belts or other equipment.

The situation is particularly sensitive for Macron, who faces pressure to crack down on illegal immigration. The Olympics are being held after years of changes to French labor laws. Macron has cut funding for inspections and abolished company safety committees.What these changes mean Simplifying France’s stifling bureaucracy. Union leaders and labor inspectors say they are making work more dangerous.

Reporter reveals there is no indication France has as many injured as Qatar deadly working conditions In the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, the government acknowledged the deaths of dozens of migrant workers. But Mr Macron has been committed to staging an Olympics that is safe, humane and magnificent. He asked unions and employers to commit to maintaining safe working conditions.

Macron’s office referred questions about working conditions and the number of injuries to other agencies. Antoine du Souich, strategy director at Solideo, a government agency that publishes injury data, said in an interview that he was not aware of any accidents involving undocumented workers. The agency relies on reports of injuries from construction companies, which could face legal consequences if they are found to be hiring undocumented workers. By regulation, France’s official work injury statistics include only legal workers.

In interviews, undocumented workers said their employers encouraged them not to report injuries or see doctors. Employers sometimes fire injured workers or pay them to stay quiet, Mr. Picou said.

Mr Dusujic said he believed unlicensed work at Olympic venues was rare. Inspectors have uncovered about 150 cases, he said. “We believe that the level of control that was put in place made it possible to identify (no doubt not all cases) but we actually considered all cases.”

But many undocumented workers have come forward voluntarily with the help of unions in hopes of gaining legal status. Inspectors have stepped up enforcement at Olympic venues, but this amounted to checking the work permits of about 1,000 of about 30,000 workers. Those without documents said they had enough time to hide or escape before being checked.

“The boss always tells us to run away,” said Daouda Tounkara, a 33-year-old undocumented Malian worker in Pleyelta.

In interviews, 12 workers from Africa described being sent to work at Olympic venues by subcontractors or temporary labor agencies. Some said their employers encouraged them to use fake IDs. Others borrowed the identities of family members. They were hired without contracts, paid illegally low wages and often worked overtime.

Babacar Kobor, from Senegal, said he cut his hand when a heavy rock fell from a loader while he was bending over to work in the Olympic Village last year. Labor inspectors and union representatives said that typically, medical personnel are called and injuries reported to the company. But Cobol said his crew chief gave him a bandage and told him to keep working.

“I had no choice,” Mr. Cobol said. “I have to keep going or they’re going to replace me.”

Other migrant workers say jackhammers are operated for hours at a time, well beyond what is generally considered safe.

“Sometimes, when you sleep, it’s like you’re shaking with a jackhammer in your arms,” ​​said Cheickna Saraambounou, a Malian worker who works without a license on Pleyel Tower.

The New York Times reviewed the medical records of another worker with a herniated disc. The worker, who asked not to be named for fear of being deported, said he used a jackhammer for eight hours at a time in the Olympic Village.

He missed a month of work without pay, and when he returned, he said he was asked to start working on the jackhammer again. He quit and now works at another Olympic venue where he doesn’t have to jackhammer as much. He said his company never reported his injuries, but he didn’t report them either out of fear of retaliation.

Sarambunu and Tuunkara, who recently gained legal status, are among 10 men suing construction companies for exploiting them at Olympic venues. The men said they were paid illegally low wages and were denied pay stubs and time off.

The companies have yet to respond in court. None of the hired workers interviewed by The Times responded to messages seeking comment.

Unpublished reports from the Global Construction Union and the International Union of Carpenters show that at two work sites, deputies found workers without safety glasses, helmets or hearing protection. Workers were shocked by unsafe cables. Several people fell from unsafe scaffolding. Union officials warned that trucks were being driven carelessly, even after one worker was run over and had his leg amputated.

Mr Dusuchi said Solideo allowed union representatives to visit the site as a way to improve safety.

“This is a real mess,” union representative Bachir Benamara said during a closed-door meeting with labor inspectors, health insurance officials and construction company leaders in October. The Times watched a video of his speech and reviewed the photos he took. “This is to remind you: something needs to be done,” he said.

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