Japan: Report alleges low pay, overwork and poor access to grievance mechanisms for construction workers at Tokyo Olympics sites

Japan will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While the construction of facilities for the Olympics is underway, the labour rights conditions facing the construction workers have drawn widespread attention. Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), basing on interviews with workers of the Olympics construction projects, published a report titled “The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics” and revealed how low pay, overwork and poor access to grievance mechanisms are creating a “culture of fear” among construction workers.

The report had been sent to the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Japanese Sports Council (JSC), the organizations responsible for the construction of Tokyo 2020 sporting facilities.

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Article
15 May 2019

Culture of fear: Report alleges low pay and overwork for laborers at Tokyo Olympics sites

Author: Japan Times

… The report from Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), titled “The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics,” is based on interviews with construction workers and documents how low pay, overwork and poor access to grievance mechanisms are creating a “culture of fear” among crews working on Olympic projects. BWI… is seeking an end to “dangerous patterns of overwork,” citing the example of construction workers at the National Stadium and Olympic Village who reported being required to work up to 26 and 28 consecutive days, respectively…

Among the findings, one case at the National Stadium was highlighted for being particularly grievous. The report cited the rejection of a complaint about a worker’s injury because it had been brought by a union and not the injured party. The alleged rejection “constitutes a serious violation of the right to be represented, a core component of the right to freedom of association,” the federation said in the report.

The BWI sent a delegation to Tokyo last September to meet with key decision-makers and investigate the “conditions faced by workers in the construction of Tokyo 2020 Olympic facilities.” Their findings were further substantiated by interviews conducted in February by BWI and its Japanese affiliate, the National Federation of Construction Workers’ Unions, with workers involved in the construction of the National Stadium and Olympic Village.

The report was sent… to the organizing committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Japan Sports Council — groups responsible for the construction of Olympic facilities. The 2020 organizing committee said Tuesday evening the report is “under review.”… [“The Tokyo Organising Committee... is now reviewing the contents of the report and will cooperate with related stakeholders to look into the alleged issue”]

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Report
14 May 2019

BWI Report demands active trade union role in Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Author: Building and Wood Workers' International

The BWI and Japanese construction union Zenkensoren has… released a study into the labour conditions of workers building the Tokyo 2020 facilities, saying that more must be done to protect workers’ safety and ensure decent work. The report, entitled The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics… documents on how ongoing overwork and poor access to justice are creating a culture of fear for Tokyo 2020 construction workers.

“The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics was Japan’s opportunity to address some of the long-running gaps within the construction industry in Japan; however, these problems have just got worse,” said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. “Wages remain low, dangerous overwork is common, and workers have limited access to recourse to address their issues.”

The report was sent… to the Tokyo Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Japanese Sports Council (JSC), the organisations responsible for the construction of Tokyo 2020 sporting facilities, and is based on interviews with workers on the New National Stadium and Olympic Village.

 “Workers told us about ongoing patterns of dangerous and illegal overwork on Tokyo 2020 sites, even though one worker has already died as a result of karoshi, death by overwork,” Yuson said. “...Two workers have already died for this Olympics, unless TOCOG, TMG and JSC step in to restrict dangerous overwork we may see more.” “We also spoke to workers that had to buy their own safety equipment,” said Yuson, noting that bogus self-employment was allowing employers to escape from their fundamental obligations to guarantee worker safety…

In addition, the report notes the ongoing problems that exist with the grievance mechanism systems established to address violations of the Sustainable Sourcing Code… The report even notes that when a union filed a complaint on behalf of a member it was rejected because the worker had not filed it himself…

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