Photo credits: Oleksii Boiko

On Wednesday 16 November 2022, the Paris Council voted to create a social charter to make the French capital, host city of the 2024 Olympic Games, an example in terms of safety at work.

Supported by the Communist and Citizen Group (GCC), the draft resolution aims to achieve "zero death at work". Within the framework of its public orders, the text provides for the exclusion of companies convicted of non-compliance with labour law in the five years preceding the call for projects. Similarly, a clause will provide for the termination of contracts with operators in the event of health and safety breaches, failure to pay wages and overtime or failure to comply with the rules on working hours.

The draft resolution also provides for a limit on the number of subcontractors by operators involved in the project, in order to avoid dilution of responsibility in the event of an accident. "All the actors we met told us that one of the first problems is the cascade of subcontractors," says Nicolas Bonnet-Ouladj, president of the Paris Communist and Citizen Group. However, there is little room for manoeuvre to limit subcontracting. Indeed, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in 2019 that limiting subcontracting through national regulations was incompatible with the 2014 European directive governing public contracts.

Nicolas Bonnet-Ouladj also recalled that France is far from being exemplary in terms of safety at work. In the Ile-de-France region alone, "the labour inspectorate received 140 reports between 30 January and 30 August 2022, 38 of which were fatal", compared to 34 the previous year. In order to "make this social fact visible" at the level of the capital, the text carried by the Communist Group also provides for the creation of a Parisian observatory of work-related accidents, as well as the reinforcement of controls on the territory.

Several elected representatives expressed reservations during the deliberation that preceded the vote on the charter. Pierre Casanova of the Modem, Démocrates et Ecologistes group described the project to set up an observatory as a "new thing", saying that the role of observer was already assigned to the unions and the labour inspectorate.

France's desire to set an example is undoubtedly not unrelated to the much-criticised organisation of the football World Cup in Qatar. In addition to the criminalisation of homosexuality and LGBTQI+ claims, Qatar is also notorious for its extreme working conditions and mistreatment of migrant workers. It is estimated that 6,500 workers died on World Cup construction sites, although the actual figure is difficult to assess.