CBC News, June 10th, 2015
The Saskatchewan NDP is wondering if the government asked the right questions about the human rights record of a company hired to build the new Regina bypass.
The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure selected VINCI, a French corporation, at the end of May as the preferred proponent in a 30-year contract to construct the $1.2-billion project.
VINCI has faced allegations regarding the violation of workers’ rights in Qatar, where the company is constructing a stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In March, the human rights organization Sherpa filed a complaint against VINCI and its subsidiary in Qatar for forced labour, servitude, and concealment.
Sherpa’s release states: “Modern slavery does not consist of shackling and whipping workers. It is subtler: the penal code defines a vulnerable population, under the threat of an employer and extreme economical dependency, as having no choice but to accept the deplorable working conditions and therefore renew its contract.”
The company has refuted all of these claims and filed a defamation lawsuit against Sherpa.
“We have repeatedly welcomed unions, international NGOs and journalists onto our building sites,” VINCI said in a release. “They have ascertained that we do more than merely comply with local labour law and respect fundamental rights.”
The VINCI release adds that all employees are free to retrieve passports at any time and that appropriate working hours are observed.
However, Sherpa has remained steadfast in its allegations.
David Forbes, NDP critic for labour, as well as quality, diversity and human rights, addressed these controversies on Wednesday.
“If they are found guilty there, clearly we’ll have questions about that. But we want to make sure their practices here are following Saskatchewan standard,” Forbes said of the VINCI corporation.
He said people are anxious to prevent any mistreatment of workers in this province.
“We want to know that the government has asked the questions to ensure that kind of thing won’t be happening here in Saskatchewan,” Forbes said.
The government said it is already aware of the allegations against VINCI and that the contract could be terminated if any of those allegations are proven true.