French judge to investigate Vinci labor rights unit in Qatar, group says


PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters) – A French judge has placed Vinci Construction Grands Projets, a unit of French construction group Vinci (SGEF.PA), under formal investigation for alleged violations of the rights of migrant workers in Qatar, said the human rights group Sherpa. said Wednesday.

Vinci indicated through his lawyer Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi that he would immediately appeal the judge’s decision.

The company, which was not immediately available for comment, said in a statement on Monday that it was “extremely regrettable” that, despite a procedure initiated seven years ago, its subsidiary was placed in examination just before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. .

Reuters asked the court where the judge sits for comment, but was told it was not immediately in a position to comment.

“The judge sends a strong signal, because it is the first time that a company has been accused on this basis for one of the activities of its subsidiaries abroad,” Sandra Cossart, head of the foreign affairs, told Reuters by telephone. Sherpa France based in Paris.

The French court ruling follows an initial complaint filed in 2015 by Sherpa, which was dismissed in January 2018.

Sherpa and the Committee Against Modern Slavery (CCEM), filed another complaint in March 2019 alongside 11 people who worked for Qatari Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC), the Qatari subsidiary of Vinci, whose French company owns 49 % of capital.

In the 2019 complaint, NGOs and ex-workers alleged that the company was forcing migrant workers to work 11-hour days six days a week, longer than Qatari law allows, under dire conditions and at high risk for their personal health, for a salary equivalent to 2% of the average salary in Qatar.

Sherpa said the Vinci unit faced charges of “maintenance in servitude”, “work and accommodation incompatible with human dignity” and “forced labour”.

Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alexander Smith

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