Construction workers live in a “culture of fear” at Tokyo Olympic sites, where they toil for long hours under perilous conditions and worry that they will be fired if they complain, an international organization said.

The Building and Wood Workers’ International’s report, released on May 15 and titled “The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics,” was submitted to the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Japan Sport Council (JSC).

The report, which also cited a complex complaint gathering system that apparently does not listen to workers, calls for measures to prevent a disaster from occurring at Olympic venue work sites.

According to the BWI, two construction workers have died so far in connection with the Tokyo Olympics.

Headquartered in Geneva, the BWI consists of about 330 labor unions in about 130 nations and regions. It also called for improved labor conditions at construction sites for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The BWI has been looking into labor conditions surrounding Tokyo Olympic venues since 2016. In February, BWI officials visited the new National Stadium and the athletes’ village to interview about 40 construction workers.

Among the disturbing conditions found were huge slabs of concrete hanging over the workers; schedules that forced some workers to be on the job for 26 or 28 days a month; and a dysfunctional complaint system.

A carpenter in his 20s who used to work at the site of the athletes’ village recalled the surprise he felt upon first entering the area. He immediately noticed a huge concrete slab hanging from a crane about 30 meters above his work space. He feared he would be killed if the slab fell to the ground where they were working.

He said he felt that concrete slabs should only be brought to the site after walls and columns to support it have been constructed. So he told another employee of the parent company about the unorthodox and risky situation.

The slabs were hoisted above ground apparently because construction materials delivered to the site had to be unloaded immediately to prevent a backup in vehicles that arrived in quick succession.

The employee told the carpenter, “It’s always like this.”

The carpenter and his colleagues quit the job after about a month because the site was just too dangerous.

“Other workers should have said, ‘It cannot be done,’ but they probably didn’t say anything for fear they would not get the next job if they complained,” he told The Asahi Shimbun.

Under the Industrial Safety and Health Law, construction companies are prohibited from allowing workers to enter any work area where materials are hoisted in the air by crane.

As one example of the complaint system not working, the report mentioned a grievance from a construction worker that a labor union in the Kanto region passed on to the JSC in January.

The worker said he was forced to work in an area with no lighting. Another worker suffered a gash in his foot that required six stitches because he couldn’t see where he was walking in the dark.

But the JSC said it could not accept the complaint because the labor union itself was not directly affected.

A labor union official said JSC’s response showed “no understanding of how much courage is needed by individual workers to raise their voices and complain.”

The BWI pointed out that although all three entities had separate complaint systems, the response by the JSC showed those systems were not functioning properly.

The BWI proposed conducting a joint assessment of work conditions at the construction sites with the organizing committee, Tokyo metropolitan government and JSC.

A JSC official said the organization was confirming what was outlined in the report.

“We have repeatedly asked companies that have won contracts for the construction work to maintain appropriate labor management,” the official said.

An official with the organizing committee said discussions would be held on what to do after confirmation of the report’s contents. An official with the Tokyo metropolitan government said it had not yet received the report.

In 2017, a 23-year-old construction worker at the new National Stadium committed suicide, and a labor standards office recognized a link between the man’s death and overwork.

The BWI said one construction worker died before the 2012 London Olympics, while 70 died in the runup to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Twelve workers died before the Rio Games and four died ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

(This article was compiled from reports by Ari Hirayama and Ryosuke Yamamoto.)