The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its local organising committee, Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) to be responsible and ensure the respect of workers’ labour and human rights at building sites for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Poor occupational health and safety practices mean that, for the workers, the remaining building sites hold a tragedy waiting to happen.
This is a matter of urgency. It is not a time for business as usual or for inept disorganised management that robs projects of coherence. A system must be imposed that makes it possible to operate workplaces in a manner that removes the serious risk of death and carnage on the job.
The experience of BWI and its member organisations at mega-sporting events and other workplaces shows that health and safety conditions are best when there is labour-management cooperation. In Tokyo, BWI and its Japanese affiliate, Zenkensoren, have repeatedly attempted to cooperate with those responsible for construction of the facilities. Those efforts have been largely ignored and workers and their trade unions have been met with hostility.
BWI investigated the situation of rights and conditions on the job at Tokyo 2020 building sites with its member organisation, Zenkensoren. The report of that investigation,“The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics”,proposes joint inspections involving BWI and other relevant parties as well as the establishment of a workable framework for the resolution of a wide range of problems, including workers without employment contracts.
Upon the release of the report, the International Labour Organization raised the findings directly with the IOC. In addition, the Center for Sports and Human Rights have expressed concerns and describe the conclusions of the report to be “disturbing.”
The report was relased more than two weeks ago, but there has been no real concrete action taken by both the IOC and TOCOG and while time is ticking, workers’ lives are at risk. TOCOG has failed to outreach to Zenkensoren or BWI to discuss the report or engage in meaningful discussions that will transform the atmosphere on the job and provide for basic rights, fair treatment, and safe and healthy working conditions for construction workers. Now it is up to the ILO to take immediate action.
At the conclusion of the BWI World Council meeting, held in Brighton, United Kingdom on 29 and 30 May, General Secretary Ambet Yuson reported that, “the World Council, which brings together BWI’s top leadership from all regions of the world, received a report on our investigation of building sites for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. They were appalled at what they heard. It was noted that there are better practices and cooperation in some countries without industrial relations systems than they are for this major mega-sporting event in a country, Japan, with a long tradition of productive and peaceful labour-management relations.”
Yuson went on to state that, “the World Council discussed the recommendations of the investigation and agreed that they were practical, concrete steps that offer a sound basis for rapid progress. It urged the IOC take immediate action. It called on the IOC to join BWI to conduct joint safety and health inspections of Tokyo 2020 facilities before it is too late. We want to ensure another worker does not die in the name of sports in Tokyo 2020.”
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