Unions closely monitor 2024 Paris Olympics, push for decent work inspections

(Photo: The Independent)

Building on the campaign for decent work in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, BWI trade union leaders from France, Romania, Ukraine and Japan met online on 5-6 December. In a “handover conference,” BWI leaders evaluated their campaign strategies on decent work in mega sports events, shared experiences and planned actions for the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

It was reported that the organisers of the Paris Olympics are aiming for zero work-related fatalities. Most of the work is focused on renovation, which they hope to leave behind as a legacy to the communities. Environmental sustainability is said to be at the core of the work, alongside respect of social and labour rights. SOLIDEO, the agency in charge of delivering the project, is promoting the Social Charter (signed with social partners) in its projects and raising awareness across the layers of subcontracting and private works linked to the Olympic Games. 

Trade unions saw the charter as a positive development. However, it highlighted a number of problems regarding its full implementation on the ground. They cited the sharing of information on workers on worksites (ex. How many are posted from other countries?) and union inspectors limited, if not absent, access to workplaces. The union leaders also underscored the responsibility of multinational companies engaged in Olympics-related infrastructure projects to the social charter by allowing union audits and inspections.

This was echoed by BWI. It said that while it welcomed the charter, it reminded unions that its true test lies in its full implementation. “The social charter must become a reality for workers on the ground. Trade unions must help in this endeavor. On issues of health and safety, in particular, the actual engagement of unions on the worksites can make the difference. France is in the position to lead by example in shaping the future of the Olympic Games,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said.

BWI also asserted that the IOC should do more to promote labour rights, including migrant workers’ rights. “The labour rights violations that happened in Japan must not be repeated and tolerated,” Yuson added. 

In the course of a site visit to the Athletes’ City, the French trade unions demanded access to all sites linked to the Paris Olympics, not just to areas where SOLIDEO is the lead project implementer. The unionists’ said that their strong pressure persuaded SOLIDEO to work more closely with them in the implementation of the charter. They said that they are inspired by BWI’s decade-long experience in the international inspections of mega-sport events, particularly its historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to inspect the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium and related infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, trade unions from Romania and Ukraine, some of the sending countries of posted workers, will continue to engage, monitor and work in partnership with their French counterparts as part of BWI’s decent work campaign in the 2024 Paris Olympics.