Today, June 8, is the Kick-Off of the UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. For a month the football fans will be treated to the spectacle of football matches and sporting superstars, awed by the passion of millions of fans, and profits will soar as this mega-sports events also takes form as an economic undertaking.
The working people will form part of the fans that will cheer for their national teams. But the trade union movement, in particular the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), would like to remind the public of the workers' contribution to make this championship a reality.
For the building workers of Poland and Ukraine, this UEFA build-up is not a 'beautiful game'.
Twenty (20) building workers died in the preparation of the EURO 2012. The death of one worker is more than enough. These deaths are not acceptable and BWI hold into account the governments, the contracting companies, and UEFA for the loss of their lives. Safeguards and labour standards should have been strictly enforced.
The wrap-up conferences of the campaign 'Decent Work Towards and Beyond EURO 2012' revealed that 14 deaths where attributed to the EURO 2012 projects in Ukraine with 8 fatalities in the Kiev Stadium alone which is hosting the final match. There were 1,500 violations reported and 1,200 units of equipment taken out. Lack of coordination among sub-contractors was blamed for the violations. Some workers toiled for low wages and delays in payments – with waiting time ranging from 2 to 6 months. It was also instructive that in the 14 sites of the accidents, only 1 has a trade union.
In Poland, the picture was also disappointing. In a context where 30% of work accidents happen in construction and 2 workers die every week, the loss of 6 lives in the EURO 2012 sites underscores the widespread decent work deficit in the country. The BWI affiliates Budowlani Union and Solidarnosc criticised the concept of lowest bid winner and asserted that this system does not guarantee decent work and safe workplaces. They proposed that fair wages should also be a criterion for bidding process.
UEFA should take responsibility of what happens to the workplaces. It cannot wash its hands and just claim that they are mere 'sports organizers'. The Kiev Post published an investigative article on 31st of May entitled "Euro 2012 Construction Worker Blues" which showed the unacceptable and callous attitude of the UEFA by saying that they are "not responsible for working conditions at the construction site. In an interview with the Kyiv Post, Martin Kellen, UEFA’s chief operation officer said: “The important thing is that things are finished on time. We have no real view how things are actually done.”
The sound bite of UEFA President Michel Platini for the opening day is "Make us Dream".
This is the same call of the thousands of construction workers that built the various stadiums and facilities for football. They dream that their 20 colleagues are still alive to witness euphoria of victories inside the majestic stadium that themselves helped build. They dream that there will be no more deaths in future stadium work. They dream that decent work and fairness is the rule of tournament preparations. They dream that UEFA will finally recognize that labor is part of the team.
But as of now EURO 2012 = 20 Deaths is a nightmare, not the dream and great party that UEFA is telling the world.