Bulgarians, Romanians Building Nuclear Reactor in France Face Ruthless Exploitation

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The foreign workers – including many Bulgarians and Romanians – on the construction site of EDF's new-generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville – face severe working conditions, according to French media.

Some one-third of the total number of 3 200 workers of the French state energy company EDF on the site in Flamanville are foreigners – mostly Romanians and Bulgarians but also Spanish and Portuguese, reported French news site Europe 1 citing the France Soir newspaper.

A few days ago, some of its foreign workers have placed a bumper sticker on the site to express their despair and frustration with their working conditions saying "stress, oppression, despair, we're tired."

French trade unions have expressed concern over the working conditions of foreign workers. "They are not quite the same as for French workers, but it is now impossible to know how much they are paid and how many hours they actually do," Jacques Tord of CGT told France Soir, CGT on the Flamanville project.

According to this union, the vast majority of Romanian workers, employed by Bouygues Construction, work between 10 and 15 hours per day. "Sometimes they start at 6 am and end at 22 o'clock at night. It's unacceptable," he says.

The reports say it is hard to verify the information on the ground because it is not the Labor Inspectorate but the French Nuclear Safety Authority that has competence. However, it acknowledges that the controls are difficult to perform for a number of reasons including because pay slips are written in Romanian.

Bouygues Construction, the largest employer on the construction site in Flamanville, has explained this massive use of workers from Eastern Europe with the fact that these jobs are "painful" and would not find takers among French workers.

"The recruiting staff at the local level has not kept its promises, [because of] lack of experienced candidates for positions ranging from structural work of masonry to shuttering through the reinforcement," the company told France Soir.

In a separate article, the French paper has described the living and working conditions for the Romanian and Bulgarian workers, which have been described as “ spartan and not always in very good condition.” The workers live in 250 bungalows, and receive EUR 250 per month.

The paper tells the story of Dimitru, a Romanian worker who has to put newspapers on the window of the bungalow where he lives in order to keep in the little heat.

The foreign workers, who otherwise get meager pay, face severe fines if they damage the so called furniture or equipment in their bungalows such as EUR 70 if they break a chair. The living conditions in the mobile homes are described as constantly deteriorating.

"The worst thing is that everyone here knows, but everyone is silent. Above all key stakeholders who, fearing reprisals, fled when a stranger approaches them. The workers live in constant fear and are beginning increasingly to complain about their housing conditions,” says Jean-Philippe Decroux, from the League of Human Rights.

Posted in |