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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
Olympic workers 'risking lives'
The unfinished roof that will cover the velodrome for the 2004 Athens Olympics
Contractors deny that workers are being put at risk
A Greek union leader has warned that construction workers are risking their lives to try to get Athens ready for this summer's Olympic Games.

Georgios Filiousis - president of the Greek construction workers union - told the BBC that 13 workers involved in Olympic projects had already died.

He compared this to one death in the run-up to the 2000 Sydney Games and he blamed it on companies cutting costs.

Mr Filiousis fears that more workers will die as the deadline draws nearer.

The union claims average working hours are being pushed up from five to seven a day, to between seven and 12 hours a day - partly as construction firms allegedly seek to finish ahead of schedule and claim early completion bonuses.

Five of the workers are said to have been killed at the Olympic village alone.

Contractors have denied that health and safety is being sacrificed for speed and insist that protective gear is available at the sites for workers to use.

RACE TO THE FINISH
Aerial view of the Main Olympic Sport Complex in Maroussi
Games due to start: 13 August
Olympic stadium due for completion: 20 July
Velodrome: 30 June
Marathon route: 15 June
Basketball and gymnastics venue: 30 April

But according to the BBC's Matt Williams in the capital, Athens, few of the workers on project sites can be seen wearing hard hats.

Builders are working round the clock on key sites.

Only 24 of 38 Olympic venues have so far been completed, and the main stadium is not predicted to be finished until 20 July.

The 16,000 ton, $147m (80m) glass-and-steel dome over the stadium is still not in place and the athletics track has not been laid.

This warning comes a week after construction workers staged a one-day strike over a pay dispute.

Athens was paralysed as thousands of workers took action to push home their demand for an 8% pay rise.

Contractors played down the effects of the strike.

"One day will not affect our work. Any delay can be covered with overtime and working on Sundays and holidays," said Dimitris Koutras, of Aktor construction firm.




SEE ALSO:
Greek PM takes over Olympic helm
09 Mar 04  |  Europe
Country profile: Greece
10 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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