Olympic Worker Gets ‘No Lunch’ at Venues Famed for Bad Food

  • Claims of harsh work conditions pile up as athletes head home
  • Rio 2016 and prosecutors say they’re monitoring contractors

Poor and irregular food service at Rio’s Olympics has been a constant gripe among visiting fans. People working behind the counter are even more bent out of shape.

Low-quality food and even lack of meals are among the main complaints voiced by some of the 6,500 workers that have been hired as waiters or food vendors at Olympic venues in Rio de Janeiro, according to Brazilian prosecutors. Other issues include long working hours without break-time and excessive heat.

“I worked over 12 hours in the opening ceremony, and some workers left the Maracana stadium after 2 a.m.,” said Cassi de Assis, a mother of three children who saw in the games an opportunity to make some extra money. “We’re treated like animals.” 

Cassi de Assis’ lunch on Thursday.
Cassi de Assis’ lunch on Thursday.
Source: Cassi de Assis

Assis, who works for Food Team, a catering company that has experience in sports events, said employees are often served low-quality food or even expired products, and sometimes no food at all. She provided a picture of the dish she was given on Thursday: rice, beans, sausage and corn mush.

Food Team said it “rigorously follows” the work legislation. It said some employees ended up working extended hours because about 40 percent of the workforce it hired didn’t show up. “All labor rights, including overtime, will be respected and duly paid for,” the company said in an statement.

Dica do Chef, another caterer serving food in common areas in two of the Olympic venues, said it signed an agreement with prosecutors pledging to improve conditions for workers. “But we had taken all the necessary measures before that,” said Antonio Pulchinelli, responsible for the company’s Olympic operation. He shared the blame for poor working conditions with Rio 2016 organizers, saying they didn’t provide adequate infrastructure to shelter workers from intense sun.

Most workers in the Olympic Venues are selected and hired by ManpowerGroup Inc, including those for Food Team. A spokesman for ManpowerGroup said the company only does the selection and has no responsibility for working conditions.

Organizers said they “value labor rights” and are collaborating with authorities. “Most reports are related to outsourced workers” a spokeswoman for Rio 2016 said. She said the organizing committee follows the situation closely to ensure all workers have the proper documentation and that any irregularities are promptly corrected.

Prosecutors said they’re holding meetings with other companies to ensure they follow the labor legislation. “Monitoring will continue until the end of the games,” said prosecutor Cynthia Maria Lopes. “The Labor Ministry has been present where the events are taking place and has been sending notices of irregularities to public prosecutors.”

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