2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar: new complaint against Vinci

2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar: new complaint against Vinci

Sherpa, the Comité contre l’Esclavage Moderne (CCEM) and six former Indian and Nepalese workers file today a new complaint against Vinci, Vinci Construction Grands Projets (VCGP), its Qatar subsidiary, Qatari Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC), and their executives and managers for forced labor and bonded labor, human trafficking, work incompatible with human dignity, failure to provide first aid assistance, deliberate endangerment of people’s lives as well as for concealing profits from these offences. It’s the first time that former Vinci’s employees from Qatar sites file a complaint against the French transnational company.

This new complaint follows an on-site investigation led by Sherpa in India in September 2018, which allowed gathering new elements and testimonies confirming Sherpa’s first investigation of 2014 in Qatar.

The previous investigation in 2014 led to the filing of a first complaint and shed a light on the working conditions of migrant workers employed by Vinci and its subcontractors on its construction sites for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. Vinci’s employees would work, with their passport confiscated, between 66 and 77 hours per week, packed in confined rooms with restricted communal accommodation, earning a salary by no means equivalent to the work provided and threatened with dismissal in case of claims regarding working conditions, in violation of Qatari law, French criminal law and international standards edicted by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The minimum wage for migrant workers is less than 2% of the average Qatari wage. The plaintiffs and witnesses were paid between 50 cents and 2 euros per hour worked.

“I signed a contract in a language that I did not understand. And when I arrived to the camp, they took my passport. I knew that I didn’t have any choice” [1] states one of the plaintiffs.

The lack of equipment necessary to protect workers from safety risks and heat (between 104°F and 122°F) would have resulted in an abnormally high number of workers’ death on construction sites.[2]

In Qatar, working outside during the warm season is a real risk. Because of the heat and humidity, I have seen people vomiting and falling.”[3]

The first complaint filed by Sherpa on March 24, 2015 was dismissed on January 31, 2018 after the prosecutor decided to close the case[4].

The preliminary investigation launched by the prosecutor in 2015 was the first initiated against a transnational company on those legal grounds. However, it was limited to a hearing of a few Vinci’s executives and the prosecutor even refused to carry out the classic investigative acts such as searches on the premises.

As Marie Laure Guislain, head of strategic litigation at Sherpa points out:

The weakness of the preliminary investigation reveals the lack of political will of the public prosecutor’s office. In case of severe international offenses, France should suppress the monopoly of the public prosecutor to decide to investigate or not. An in-depth investigation has to be carried out now”.

 

The Qatari authorities should not refuse to cooperate with the French authorities considering the context of the highly scrutinized 2022 FIFA World Cup.

 

The working conditions of many workers have been positively impacted following the first legal proceedings of 2015 and the parallel ILO investigation. Sherpa welcomes those improvements. However, those impacts should not erase Vinci’s responsibility for the offenses committed.

 

[1]    Extract from a worker’s testimony

[2] See HRW’s report (2017) accessible on : https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/27/qatar-take-urgent-action-protect-construction-workers et the Guardian’s investigation accessible on: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/revealed-qatars-world-cup-slaves

[3]    Extract from a worker’s testimony

[4]    Sherpa then filed a complaint with a claim for criminal indemnification on September 25, 2018 with one of the anonymous witness of the 2015’s complaint. According to the French criminal procedure, once the prosecutor decided to close the case, the victim can bring a lawsuit with a civil claim for damages within criminal proceedings directly in front of an investigating judge. This lawsuit can only be filed by the same parties. This is why Sherpa, the CEEM and the 6 news plaintiffs are filing a new lawsuit today.