Workers face dangerous working conditions and unpaid wages before the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

11 April 2016 15:09

At least two workers have lost their lives due to the inhuman work pressure at construction sites for the Winter Olympic Games 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While the real statistics are being hidden the local construction union in the region has raised serious safety concerns.

In April last year a dump truck driver was found dead in his truck cabin with his hands on the steering wheel after having worked extraordinarily long hours on a railway construction site. The cause of his death was cardiac arrest. Another fatal accident happened in November when a dump truck driver fell to the ground when he was changing his truck’s container into a de-icing spraying machine.

“We are two years away from the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and already two workers have lost their lives. This is not a good start to ensuring that Sochi, Russia is not repeated in Pyeongchang,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.

Since 2014 BWI’s affiliate the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) have been highlighting the dangerous and unsafe working conditions of construction projects in preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as part of BWI’s Global Sports Campaign for Decent Work.

The mountainous Gangwon Province will be home to the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, where half the region's 79,000 construction workers are believed to be working on projects related to the Games.

The Gangwon Branch of the KFCITU’s affiliate Korean Construction Workers Union have been aggressively organizing workers working on in the construction of the infrastructure projects related to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics construction sites. Last year the union to organize more than 3,000 workers through campaigns focusing on back wages and safety and health. The union has also been able to reach a number of collective bargaining agreements to limit the long work hours.

"We are impressed that the Gangwon branch, which normally organises dump truck drivers and excavator or construction equipment operators, has stepped into the gap and begun recruiting construction workers on the Pyeongchang Olympic sites," said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson.

Issue of back wage cases is prevalent in Pyeongchang. According to the union the total amount of back wages at construction sites related to the 2018 Winter Olympics last year amounted to 11 million USD. To date, the total amount of unpaid wages is 3.26 million USD. One of these project sites is the Alpine Ski Jump, where the company has not paid its workers since last December forcing the union to shut down the site.

The Gangwon branch will continue its efforts to outreach to all construction workers related to all 2018 Winter Olympic projects. At the same time, they hope to use the Olympics as a vehicle to improve the working conditions of all construction workers in the province.