France Says It Built the Olympics Safely. Migrant Workers Don’t Count.

France Says It Built the Olympics Safely. Migrant Workers Don’t Count.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, promised to construct the Summer Olympics safely, freed from the development hazards and migrant employee abuses that tarnished soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Months earlier than the Games start in Paris, he declared success.

“We live as much as the commitments we made,” Mr. Macron mentioned in February.

Government information exhibits fewer than 200 accidents at Olympics websites over a four-year building blitz. And no deaths.

But inspection information and different paperwork present that Olympics websites have been extra harmful than organizers have let on, with some tasks failing to satisfy fundamental security requirements. When undocumented immigrants are damage on the job, staff and officers say, the accidents are sometimes dealt with off the books, all however guaranteeing that they won’t present up in authorities statistics.

Even deadly accidents of laborers working legally are typically omitted from the Olympic depend.

When two staff died on a subway venture that Mr. Macron’s former transportation minister referred to as “the lifeline of the Olympics,” their deaths weren’t included within the Olympic complete.

When a truck fatally crushed a person who was serving to construct a wastewater basin to permit swimming occasions to be held within the Seine, his loss of life was omitted from the Olympic depend. “Administratively, it was put in one other class,” mentioned Paul Duphil, the manager secretary of France’s quasi-government building security watchdog.

That is due to how the French authorities defines an Olympic web site. Accidents on the Olympic Village depend, however not on the Pleyel Tower, a close-by skyscraper that has been remodeled right into a luxurious lodge for the Games. Work on the media middle counts, however building of a big footbridge that the native authorities says is “on the coronary heart of the Olympic venture” doesn’t.

And in an business the place some accidents are all however inevitable, France’s information is at occasions remarkably pristine: The metropolis of Marseille advised The New York Times that there had not been even a single minor damage throughout two years of dredging and building of the Olympic Marina, a facility on the Mediterranean the place crusing competitions can be held.

Workers, union officers and a few labor inspectors say all of that is a part of Mr. Macron’s effort to make France sparkle within the Olympic highlight. “It permits them to say that France isn’t Qatar,” mentioned Simon Picou, a union consultant for presidency labor inspectors.

Documents, together with interviews with authorities officers, inspectors and greater than a dozen staff, present that undocumented immigrants performed a bigger and riskier position in delivering the Olympics than the Macron administration acknowledges. Undocumented staff described being pushed to do harmful jobs for lengthy hours with out security glasses, harnesses or different gear.

The state of affairs is particularly delicate for Mr. Macron as a result of he’s below strain to crack down on unlawful immigration. And the Olympics arrive after years of adjustments to French labor legal guidelines. Mr. Macron lower funding for inspections and abolished firm security boards. The adjustments have been meant to simplify France’s stifling forms. Union leaders and labor inspectors say they’ve made work extra harmful.

There is not any indication that France has seen wherever close to as many accidents as Qatar, the place journalists revealed lethal working situations within the run-up to the 2022 World Cup and the federal government acknowledges that dozens of migrant staff died. But Mr. Macron has campaigned on delivering an Olympics that can be as protected and humane as they’re majestic. He has required unions and employers to vow that they may preserve protected working situations.

Mr. Macron’s workplace referred questions on working situations and the damage depend to different businesses. Antoine du Souich, the technique director of Solideo, the federal government physique that launched the damage figures, mentioned in an interview that he was unaware of any accidents involving undocumented staff. The company depends on damage studies from building firms, which might face authorized repercussions if they’re discovered to make use of undocumented staff. And France’s official office damage figures embody, by rule, solely authorized staff.

In interviews, undocumented staff described being inspired by their employer to not report their accidents or see docs. Mr. Picou mentioned that employers typically fireplace injured staff or pay them to maintain quiet.

Mr. du Souich mentioned that he believes that undocumented work on Olympic websites was uncommon. Inspectors have recognized about 150 circumstances, he mentioned. “We suppose that the extent of management that was put in place made it doable to determine — by no means all of the circumstances, undoubtedly — however we predict virtually all of the circumstances.”

But a lot of these undocumented staff got here ahead voluntarily, with the assistance of unions, in hopes of incomes authorized standing. Inspectors have elevated enforcement at Olympic websites, however that has amounted to checking the work authorization of solely about 1,000 of the roughly 30,000 staff. And these with out papers say they’ve loads of time to cover or flee earlier than inspections.

“The bosses all the time inform us to run,” mentioned Daouda Tounkara, a 33-year-old undocumented employee from Mali who labored on the Pleyel Tower.

In interviews, 12 staff, all from Africa, described being despatched by subcontractors or temp businesses to work on Olympic websites. Some mentioned that their employers inspired them to get pretend id papers. Others borrowed a member of the family’s id. They have been employed with out contracts and acquired illegally low salaries, usually working time beyond regulation.

Babacar Kobor, from Senegal, mentioned that, whereas bending over to work on the Olympic Village final 12 months, heavy rocks fell from a loader and gashed his hand. Labor inspectors and union representatives say that, usually, medics could be referred to as and the damage could be reported to the corporate. But Mr. Kobor mentioned his crew chief gave him bandages and advised him to maintain working.

“I had no selection,” Mr. Kobor mentioned. “I needed to hold going, or they exchange me.”

Other immigrant staff described working jackhammers for hours at a time, far past what is often thought of protected.

“Sometimes, you’re sleeping and it’s such as you nonetheless have a jackhammer in your arms, you’re shaking a lot,” mentioned Cheickna Sarambounou, a laborer from Mali who labored with out papers on the Pleyel Tower.

The Times reviewed the medical information of one other employee who suffered a slipped disk. The employee, who requested that he not be named as a result of he feared deportation, mentioned he jackhammered for as much as eight hours at a time on the Olympic Village.

He missed a month of labor, unpaid, and when he returned, he mentioned he was requested to start out jackhammering once more. He stop and now works on one other Olympic web site the place he doesn’t must jackhammer so lengthy. He mentioned his firm by no means reported his damage however, fearing retaliation, he didn’t report it both.

Mr. Sarambounou and Mr. Tounkara, who lately gained authorized standing, are amongst 10 males who’re suing building firms for exploiting them as undocumented staff on Olympic websites. The males say they acquired illegally low salaries and have been denied pay slips and break day.

The firms haven’t but responded in courtroom. None of those that employed staff interviewed by The Times responded to messages looking for remark.

Unpublished studies from the worldwide commerce union Building and Wood Workers’ International present that, on two websites, representatives discovered staff with out security glasses, helmets or listening to safety. Workers had been shocked by unsecured electrical cables. Several had fallen from unsecured scaffolding. Union officers warned that vans have been pushed carelessly, even after one employee was run over and had his leg amputated.

Mr. du Souich mentioned that Solideo allowed union representatives to go to the websites as a approach to enhance security.

“It’s such a multitude,” Bachir Benamara a union consultant, mentioned in October throughout a closed-door assembly with labor inspectors, medical health insurance officers and building firm leaders. The Times watched a video of his presentation and reviewed footage that he took. “This is to warn you: Something must be completed,” he mentioned.



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