Friday, August 20, 2004

IFBWW pays tribute to workers who died on Greek construction sites

Migrant workers racing against the clock to build Greece's Olympic dream in Athens have been dying in shockingly large numbers. Indifference to safety standards has cost the lives of at least 14 workers while scores more have been seriously injured.

GENEVA / SWITZERLAND, 12 August 2004: As the world's largest international construction trade union body, the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW) has expressed several times serious alarm over the death of many construction workers at Athens sites.

The General Secretary of the Greek construction workers' union, George Theodorou has collected names and details of 14 workers who died on Olympic facilities. But he believes that many more workers have been killed including on the supporting infrastructure, like the city's new roads and metro. Workers have been facing very difficult working conditions.

Besides long working hours - up to 14 hours a day -, they have been working in very hot temperatures and facing constant pressure to complete construction work in time for the Olympic games. With widespread evidence of poor safety standards, no protective clothing, and no proper organisation, such sites would be closed elsewhere. But when workers have protested against their situation, they were immediately sacked.

"All of these accidents were avoidable. What's happened is criminal in the truest sense of the word and it's been done in the name of profit," said Giorgos Philiousis, president of the construction workers' union at the Athens 2004 Olympic Village. According to Mr Philiousis, the reasons for the death toll are three-fold. Contractors are pocketing the health and safety budgets; cheap, unskilled immigrant labourers are being given high-risk heavy machinery to operate; and workers are being forced into excessive overtime to earn early delivery bonuses for their bosses. For the multinational workforce, including Pakistanis, Albanians and Syrians, working and living conditions are grim.

The list of dead workers - compiled by union investigators and Greek opposition parties - has met with a "conspiracy of silence" in the Greek media. During the same period in the run-up to the last Olympics in Sydney only one death was recorded. The excessive number of reported casualties in Greece led Australian union officials to lodge an official complaint with the Greek government last year.

Against, this background the IFBWW pays tribute to all victims of the Olympic games and would appreciate that its affiliates' publish this message to their members as a way of IFBWW's permanent organising campaign highlighting the preventable nature of the two million deaths every year that are caused by bad and illegal working conditions.

IFBWW sectors are among the most dangerous and least protected in the world. The IFBWW organizes 280 trade unions with over 10.5 million members in 125 countries. The IFBWW is also a member of Global Unions: E-mail: Internet web site: IFBWW For more information, please contact the IFBWW Information Officer on +41 22 827 37 86.

By IFBWW posted 20 August 04


Anti-Olympics Rally Honors Dead Workers
Anti-Olympics protesters gathered in central Athens Tuesday to hold an open-air memorial service for 13 workers killed during round-the-clock construction of venues for the games.

"Sew-in" in Athens to highlight problems faced by sportswear workers Athens, August 10, 2004: The Play Fair at the Olympics campaign staged an action in Athens on the eve of the opening of the Olympic games in solidarity with sportswear workers worldwide.