Eleven dead and no word of comfort or sympathy from the IOC…

On 28 July 28, 2016, trade unions from all over Brazil and individual researchers held a ceremony to pay tribute to the families of victims of fatal accidents or serious injury who had been working on construction sites for the Rio Olympics. Between 2013 and 2016 eleven people lost their lives and three were seriously injured in preparations for hosting the Games.

“Each one of these deaths is our failure,” according to Elaine Castillo, auditor of the Regional Superintendence of Labour and Employment of Rio de Janeiro (SRTE-RJ).

The ceremony was part of the Campaign for Decent Work towards and beyond 2016, organized by the Building and Workers Wood International (BWI) and its affiliated unions. The campaign had aimed at improving working conditions in the run-up to Rio 2016 and continues to push the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the International Labour Organization’s “Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work” in the requirements for any city hosting the Games.

The event was organized by the BWI in partnership with the Centre of Workers’ Health and Human Ecology Studies (CESTEH/ENSP /FIOCRUZ), the Union of Civil Engineering Workers of Rio de Janeiro (SITRAICP), the Union of Construction Industry Workers of Rio de Janeiro (SINTRACONST-RIO) and the Union of Workers in Science, Technology, Production and Innovation in Public Health (Asfoc-SN).

“The unions are fighting for better wages and benefits, but the most important struggle is for workers’ lives,” said Nilson Duarte Costa, president of SITRAICP. The director of SINTRACONST-RIO , Nerivaldo Mendonça, proposed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims during the event.

According to Nilton Freitas, BWI Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, “This is also a meeting of those who are willing to fight so accidents like those will not repeat.” After welcoming the participants CESTEH Coordinator, Katia Reis, stressed that, “Health is not given, it is conquered.”

The event also included representatives of the victims’ family. Alan Real, the brother of 30-year-old Thiago Real, who died after being crushed by a truck in the works of Highway Transolímpica, said, “Where is the International Olympic Committee, the IOC? Not a word of comfort or sympathy, a simple ‘I’m sorry’ …. nothing! “. During the ceremony a tree was planted and a plaque in honour of the workers and their families was unveiled.

A version of this article first appeared on the BWI’s website, http://www.bwint.org


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Gary Herman