Paris, 10 November 2022 – A few days before the 2022 World Cup kick-off, French construction giant Vinci Construction Grands Projets has been indicted, in relation to its construction sites in Qatar, for forced labour, reduction to servitude, working and housing conditions incompatible with human dignity, and the obtention of services in exchange for remuneration that is clearly unrelated to the importance of the work performed. NGO Sherpa as well as the other complainants welcome this strong signal sent to multinationals.
Seven years after the first complaint filed by Sherpa against Vinci, and after more than three years of investigation, the judge has indicted Vinci Construction Grands Projets for forced labour, reduction to servitude, working and housing conditions incompatible with human dignity, and the obtention of services in exchange for remuneration that is clearly unrelated to the importance of the work performed, considering that there was “serious or corroborating indication” that Vinci committed or participated in the offences until 2014.
Sherpa went to Qatar in 2014 and collected testimonies on the working conditions at that time (lack of air conditioning, stifling/exhausting heat, withholding of passports, debt bondage, etc.) and in dire housing conditions (lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities, etc.). These testimonies led to a complaint against Vinci. Sherpa was then joined by twelve former construction workers, as well as by the NGO “Comité contre l’Esclavage Moderne” (CCEM).
For Sandra Cossart, Sherpa’s Executive Director: “Companies are not above the law. This indictment is a strong signal against the impunity of multinationals, it shows that the use of forced labour in their value chains can lead to prosecution.”
As for the next steps, this indictment allows Vinci to access the file and present its defence. The NGOs hope that the multinational will not abuse the judicial process by deploying delaying tactics.