The plight of exploited workers on construction sites

AA / Paris / Ümit Dönmez

In a sensational revelation last December, the newspaper “Liberation” shed light on the exploitation of undocumented workers at the construction sites of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

In the context of strong criticism of working conditions at the construction sites of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and calls for a boycott of the most watched sporting event in the world, the French daily collected the testimonies of workers paid up to 80 euros each day, on the black market, without any declaration, without any contribution to society, or a day of rest. This is in addition to their hard work in the most difficult climatic conditions.

In an exclusive survey, and through a series of interviews with workers, all working in French companies, Anadolu (AA) reveals that the working conditions, for contract workers, also include among the most tested.

– Four main problems

Among the findings that often appear, there is, first of all, the significant difference between the salary indicated in the workers’ contracts or pay slips and the actual amount they receive: amounts in general up to the minimum wage or slightly higher.

The workers interviewed by AA also explained that the limit of 35 hours per week is rarely respected and that they are often obliged to work overtime, especially on weekend work, either at the request of their employers, either to supplement their difficult end of the month.

Another statement made by a large part of the interviewees raises the question of the security conditions under which they are obliged to work. They especially regret the lack of adequate security measures and appropriate protective equipment.

Finally, all the workers, who come from Africa or Eastern Europe, for the vast majority of them, report the impossibility for them to rent their own accommodation in the Paris region, due to the lack of income that commensurate with the cost of living.

– A minimum wage for “multiple risks”

While the cold is buried in his hands because of work, this Saturday, January 21, Moussa* is preparing to leave the construction site to go to another job site and thus supplement his end of the month.

Moussa is unhappy with his working conditions, but he prefers not to complain. With the assurance that his face would not be filmed, he agreed to confess to the AA correspondent.

He laments the fact that he is not paid enough for the work he does: 1,200 to 1,300 euros per month for cleaning construction sites. He recalled that he was doing a job with “a lot of risk”, without appropriate safety equipment.

He claims he was “robbed” of money from his salary, citing a significant discrepancy between the salary stated on his payslip and the actual salary he was receiving. He said he approached a union representative to try to resolve the problem, but the latter did not help him.

Moussa complains that his contract is not being respected, but given the lack of choice, he must continue working despite the unfair and dangerous working conditions.

“We do not respect anything” of the provisions of the employment contract, he declared before adding that “we are Senegalese, you know, we want to work here”, explaining that it is always better than the living conditions and work in their country of origin.

Since he was short of paying the rent, he explained that he was staying with a relative.

– “Just enough to eat with the family”

Amine* is Malian. He makes plaster and paint.

When asked about his working conditions, he prefers not to give the impression that he is complaining, but acknowledges that they are indeed difficult.

In the long run, for lack of choice, he had to give in and accept the demands of his masters.

Despite his contract stating that he must work 35 hours a week, Amine almost systematically works on Saturdays, and sometimes even Sundays.

He earns 1,500 to 1,600 euros, “just enough to eat with the family” who lives with him, while he also does not earn enough to rent an apartment in the Paris region.

His nuclear family is in Mali. He deprives himself of basic necessities in order to send them money every month.

“We have no choice,” he says, resignedly.

– Dragan fulfills everything

Dragan* is Serbian. He has lived in France for three years, but he still finds it difficult to express himself.

He has been working on this site for three months. He explained to us, sometimes in French, sometimes in English, that he was traveling to try to increase his income a little. He officially works 35 hours a week, but does small individual jobs on weekends to make ends meet.

With the income from this additional job, he receives 1800 euros per month.

“It’s better here than in Serbia,” he said, explaining that in his country of birth he would be paid 500 euros for the same job.

Unable to rent an apartment, he also lives with a relative.

– Crossing the Seidou desert

Seidou* is Malian. He arrived in France in 2018, rather satisfied with his salary, declaring to receive 2000 euros monthly for his qualified work as a carpenter, but also living with a relative, due to the inability to pay for in residence.

Although his contract indicated 35 hours, he also often worked on Saturdays. He also complains that the salary he receives is lower than the salary stated in his contract, without taking into account overtime.

Asked about the difference in the amount received, Seidou reported a lack of at least 600 euros per month, but chose not to complain.

He remembers his arrival in France via Morocco and Spain after a perilous crossing of the Mediterranean in a Zodiac.

A trip he paid for by working in Mali and the various countries he passed through and saving his meager income. By telling us the painful memory of his crossing the desert, he considers himself lucky and clings to his work at all costs.

Anadolu (AA) asked to try to check their knowledge of the working conditions of these construction workers, the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and the Region of Île-de-France, so far, have not given any reaction.

* At their request, the names of the interviewees have been changed

Only part of the dispatches, which Anadolu Agency broadcasts to its subscribers through the Internal Broadcasting System (HAS), was broadcast on the AA website, in a summarized way. Please contact us to subscribe.

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