Russia rejects Olympic workers abuse claims

File Photo of Sochi Olympics Banner Near Highway in Warm Weather with Vehicle and Cyclicsts Nearby

(Interfax – February 6, 2013)

A senior Russian government minister has dismissed allegations that migrant workers involved in preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are being cheated out of wages and denied adequate rest, food and housing, the privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 6 February.

With almost exactly a year to go until the Games, Dmitriy Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for overseeing the preparations, told journalists that Russia was monitoring the safety and welfare of the workers helping to build facilities for the event. His remarks, during a visit to Sochi where he accompanied President Vladimir Putin, follow the publication of a report by US-based Human Rights Watch, which said that workers were suffering “consistent patterns of abuse”.

“In terms of the observance of the labour rights of citizens, the guaranteeing of workplace safety, living conditions and so on, we have reinforced our monitoring,” Kozak said. We have a labour inspectorate handling this, as well as Rospotrebnadzor (the Russian government agency responsible for monitoring consumer rights), the migration service and the prosecutor’s office. We have not received complaints on the sort of scale that would justify an international report.”

He added that he was in possession of “reports from all bodies and organizations”, and “it could not be said that there are mass violations” of workers’ rights. “I think this is an exception,” he said. “No-one was forcibly recruited there, all the working conditions were known to everyone beforehand. People are travelling there voluntarily from every corner of the country, and they’re looking for work.”

Around 500 companies and some 96,000 workers are currently involved in various construction and infrastructure projects, Kozak said.

During his visit, Putin has been inspecting a number of the facilities that will be used during the Winter Olympics. He has stressed that the organizers should make every effort to ensure that costs are rigorously managed and that facilities are delivered on time.