Critics Claim Russian Workers Going Unpaid As Funds Siphoned Off By Corruption
The £32B ($51B) Sochi Winter Olympics project "is mired in controversy with workers going unpaid for months and illegal labour brought in to Russia," according to Roland Oliphant of the London TELEGRAPH. As IOC President Thomas Bach visited the city with Vladimir Putin and the two were pictured with "cheering crowds" there were claims being made that construction companies have "not paying their workers," are "bussing in illegal labourers and taking scant care of their existing employees" in the rush to complete preparations. At least "25 people died in accidents and many more were injured" last year, and the estimated 95,000 workers who have worked on the project "have seen little of that £32 billion." Manual laborer Viktor Spinu, who has not been paid since March, said, "They kept promising it would be next week, then the week after that. Now they’ve just laid us off and brought in new workers. Yugoslavs, I saw the buses coming in.” A Human Rights Watch report disclosed that "some employers cheated workers out of wages, required them to work 12-hour shifts with few days off, and confiscated passports and work permits, apparently to coerce workers to remain in exploitative jobs." Spinu "is far from unique, and he is unlikely to see his missing wages, although the company did end up paying those who had work permits and contracts." Human rights worker Semyon Semyonov said his office "has received appeals for help from 1,500 people since it opened in July 2012." Government critics say Spinu's story is just "the tip of an iceberg of corruption and kickbacks that has claimed at least half of the Olympics’ vast bill (TELEGRAPH, 10/30).