Vinci denies worker-abuse claims in Qatar ahead of charges this week

Vinci says QDVC has worked with unions and rights groups for years to establish a good record on workers’ rights in Qatar (Photograph by Alex Sergeev/
Vinci Group defended its record on workers’ rights in Qatar today as it confirmed that its subsidiary Vinci Construction Grands Projets had been summoned to appear before an investigating judge in Nanterre on Wednesday to answer charges relating to a complaint dating to 2015.

The company said it has “vigorously denied” allegations made against it concerning its projects in Qatar conducted by the company QDVC, in which Vinci Construction Grands Projets has a 49% stake.

In a statement today, Vinci noted that a first complaint filed in 2015 was dismissed in January 2018.

“Contrary to certain allegations made, none of the projects awarded to QDVC has any connection with the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar,” Vinci said. “In fact, these projects were entrusted to QDVC before the competition was awarded to Qatar and mainly relate to transport infrastructures. Vinci did not sign any contract with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and has not built any stadium or hotel in Qatar.”

Vinci said it has cooperated with judicial authorities since the 2015 complaint by providing detailed information on its activities in Qatar.

‘Extremely regrettable’ timing

“Throughout the intervening period, however, it has had no access either to the complaint or to the investigation file. In that respect, Vinci considers it extremely regrettable that despite the proceedings having commenced seven years ago, its subsidiary should face charges just before the start of the Football World Cup in Qatar,” the company said.

“This highly-charged period of media attention might be rather unfavourable in terms of a dispassionate consideration of the facts. However, Vinci will continue to cooperate with the courts, with the objective to show that the allegations made against the Group are unfair.”

In 2014, Vinci began cooperating with the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), which resulted in two on-site inspections in Doha in 2015 and 2017.

Vinci and QDVC have also regularly appointed outside third parties to audit them. In 2015, a human rights impact study was carried out by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). Vinci noted that the final report concluded that “in a very challenging operating environment, QDVC has demonstrated a good level of performance that positively contributes to mitigating the risks of negative impacts on the human rights of employees and of subcontractors”.

An agreement signed with the BWI at the end of 2017 includes a system for monitoring, inspections, audits, release of reporting and control in various areas, such as recruitment, conditions of employment and accommodation, health and safety, worker representation, and supervision of subcontractors.

Satisfied workers

The first audit of QDVC’s sites and operations in Qatar was carried out in January 2019, and a second was carried out in October 2021. Vinci said both of these public audit reports highlight the best practices followed by QDVC, the latest report also showing the level of satisfaction among QDVC workers, whose average length of service was almost seven years in 2021.

Since it was formed, QDVC has recruited more than 11,000 employees, and, including partners joint-contractors and subcontractors, the company’s projects have involved more than 240,000 employees.

Furthermore, Vinci said, a study by New York University in 2017 recognised QDVC’s ethical recruitment practices as representing “the most responsible practice currently existing in the industry in Qatar”.

Since then, QDVC has worked with the local office of the International Labour Organisation to set up a migration corridor between Qatar and Bangladesh, with no recruitment fees for workers.

QDVC was also the first Qatari company to organise free elections of migrant workers’ representatives, Vinci said.

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