International labor organization criticizes 2020 Olympics working conditions

Those working on the National Stadium reported working 26 days consecutively. (File/Reuters)
Updated 17 May 2019

International labor organization criticizes 2020 Olympics working conditions

  • The report says they are dealing with dangerous conditions, long working hours and an inadequate complaint system
  • The Summer Games begin on July 24, 2020

TOKYO: Construction workers are living in a ‘culture of fear’ and work for long hours in perilous conditions building Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues, according to a report from a leading international labor organization.
The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) report, which is based on the organization’s interviews with workers, says they are dealing with dangerous conditions, long working hours and an inadequate complaint system.
BWI also noted two construction workers had died in connection with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“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,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said in the report.
In 2017, the parents of a 23-year-old builder at the National Stadium petitioned the government to recognize his suicide as “karoshi” — or death by overwork, with media saying he worked 200 hours of overtime a month before his death.
A labor standards office eventually recognized his death as work-related.
The BWI report, released to the public Wednesday, says Japan’s acute labor shortage has put immense pressure on construction workers.
Builders at the Olympic and Paralympic athlete village reported working 28 days in a row; those working on the National Stadium reported working 26 days consecutively, the report said.
The report was submitted to Tokyo 2020, which is organizing the Games; the Tokyo Metropolitan Government; and the Japan Sports Council, which manages the National Stadium, on Tuesday.
“The JSC has been calling for efforts on the construction company to ensure the safety and health of workers and receiving reports regularly,” a JSC spokesman said via email on Friday. “However, as of today, we have not been able to identify cases written in the BWI report or other violations of law.”
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government acknowledged on Friday that it had received the report, but did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Responsibility
Eight new venues are being built for the Games alongside older renovated venues in Tokyo.
The JSC manages the construction of the National Stadium, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is responsible for the remaining new venues.
Tokyo 2020 organizers are responsible for the temporary gymnastics venue, which is not mentioned in the report.
The organizing committee noted that it is not the “commissioning party” for any of the other projects.
“The Tokyo Organizing Committee... is now reviewing the contents of the report and will cooperate with related stakeholders to look into the alleged issue,” Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said in an email to Reuters.
Construction work on Tokyo’s new National Stadium, the centerpiece of the 2020 Summer Olympics, began in December 2016 after a delay of nearly a year.
The original design was rejected because of its high cost, but it is set to be completed in November.
Organizers have presented the 2020 Olympics as an opportunity to soften Japan’s work culture.
The country has few limits on overtime and pay. Employees at more than a fifth of companies exceeded a government threshold of 80 hours of monthly overtime, a white paper showed in 2016.
Last year, the infrastructure ministry predicted the Japanese construction industry would face a shortage of 470,000 to 930,000 workers by 2025.
The Summer Games begin on July 24, 2020.


Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

Updated 24 February 2020

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape by a New York jury
  • He was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013

NEW YORK: Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sexual assault and rape but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges, a partial victory for the #MeToo movement that sparked a cascade of allegations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a measure of vindication for the dozens of women who came out against the one-time all-powerful filmmaker.
However, the 67-year-old Oscar-winner who produced films including "Shakespeare In Love" was found not guilty of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.
The Time's Up foundation, formed in the wake of the Weinstein case, hailed the verdict as marking "a new era of justice."
"Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There's no going back," it said in a statement.
The limited win for #MeToo presents the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.
The decision was announced in a packed New York courtroom where some 100 people had gathered. The defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, was shielded from view by police officers.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.
But the jury considered charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.
One of the predatory sexual assault charges also included testimony from "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94.
Six women took the stand from the opening of testimony on January 22, to say they had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
Weinstein's team subjected the women to ferocious cross-examination, as they argued that his relationships were consensual and transactional.
The prosecution cast Weinstein as a conniving predator who demanded sex in exchange for access to a film universe where he was king, but presented no forensic evidence or witness accounts.
The state's case instead rested on asking the jury to believe the women.
Weinstein, who has always said his sexual relations were consensual, was charged with raping former actress Mann in the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013.
He was also charged with forcing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his New York apartment in July 2006 while she was on her period.
Mann and Young both testified that Weinstein's genitals appeared deformed, during graphic and at times uncomfortable testimony, as the prosecution showed jurors nude photos of Weinstein to corroborate their accounts.
The charges of predatory sexual assault, a serious sex crime committed against more than one person, were the most serious and carried a sentence of life in prison.
For the jury to convict Weinstein of that they would have had to believe either Mann or Haleyi plus Sciorra.
Sciorra's allegation was too old to be prosecuted as an individual crime but she was included in the indictment to bolster the predatory sexual assault charge.
Ex-model Lauren Young also told the court that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013 when she was a 22-year-old aspiring actress.
Judge Burke dismissed the jury just after noon Monday, thanking them for their "care" and "attention."
Eyes now turn to Los Angeles, where Young's allegations form part of a separate sex crimes investigation against Weinstein being carried out by prosecutors in the California city.
Los Angeles prosecutors accuse him of raping an Italian model in February 2013 and of assaulting Young the following night.