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Decathlon embarrassed by the investigation into the death of a temporary worker driving a Fenwick

Publié le 15 mars 2024 à 05:12 par Magazine En-Contact
Decathlon embarrassed by the investigation into the death of a temporary worker driving a Fenwick

Mr Traoré, a 25-year-old temporary worker (and not 35, as the Paris public prosecutor's office would have us believe) died at Decathlon's La Madeleine site on his first day of work yesterday, Wednesday 11 October 2023. What stage has the investigation reached ?

Two investigations have been opened, but according to our information, Mr Traoré should not have been driving the Fenwick that took him to his death :  Temporis, the temporary employment agency that delegated him to the site, was not informed of the need to drive a forklift truck, according to its director. Could this information make Decathlon responsible for the fatal outcome of this assignment and for compensating the damage caused?

The scene of the fatal accident at Decathlon, Paris

Driving a forklift truck up a steep access road because a lorry's tailgate wasn't working, to unload goods that would later be put on sale in shop, was not the job description for which the temporary worker from the Temporis agency in Montreuil had been delegated at the leading sports goods retailer in the centre of Paris. He died yesterday at around 9.30am.

"The work the temporary worker was asked to do didn't correspond to the mission statement for which we had hired him and sent him there. And Decathlon didn't inform us of a change in the nature of the assignment, which sometimes happens and can be managed. Our client* had to do some handling and unloading of a lorry," adds Morgan Boar, Temporis branch manager. "We're devastated, I am, as are the staff who worked on the case and the family we informed. * At Temporis, temps are called customers.

Decathlon seems so embarrassed by the two investigations that have been launched (by the Paris Central Police Station and the Labour Inspectorate) that it has asked employee members of the Works Council to observe a duty of confidentiality. The term is marked in red in the emails (which we have been able to consult) sent to them by the Coach Organisation Réseau, an internal name. So who can share the information they have?

"The members of the CSE are obliged to do so, but not the other witnesses or people present, who can describe everything they saw, provided they do not tell any lies," explains a lawyer who is familiar with this type of investigation.

Anger is running high among the CFDT, which on the previous Monday had issued a warning of serious and imminent danger about the dangerous conditions in which lorries were being unloaded on the site.

Extracts from the video
What happened, according to some of the witnesses who were there on the day of the accident.
"The Madeleine shop is one of the biggest in the Ile-de-France region, and every day a heavy goods vehicle delivers goods to us, which we take down using a lift that had been out of order for several days. The situation is quite dangerous because there is a lot of traffic on the boulevard de la Madeleine and motorbikes can arrive quite quickly (...) The temporary worker must have been instructed to take the forklift and lower the goods. The access road to the car park is steep. The brakes would have failed, which would have already been reported.  
Nobody saw the accident, apart from a witness.
But there had already been incidents on this road, although they had not resulted in a real accident at work. Yannis Megal, CGT union representative at Decathlon Madeleine, told one of our colleagues that he had witnessed two accidents caused by the same forklift truck. The accidents were reported to the Works Council on 4 and 5 October.

Lisa Maruskin

Decathlon embarrassed.
On the spot, our journalist was referred to Decathlon's press office, without being able to speak to Natacha Cattoire, the manager of the shop concerned.
Members of the CFDT union say that the investigation, which was due to start on Thursday, has been postponed and that the company's lawyers have been trying since yesterday to circumscribe everything that is said about the facts. "As a whistleblower, I should have been present at the start of the investigation, but that was not the case," said Lisa Maruskin, CFDT delegate and member of the CSE, a sales assistant at the Madeleine shop.

What we already know: 
- The letter of assignment given and sent by Decathlon to its partner, the Temporis agency, will probably weigh heavily in the investigation, which began yesterday.
- there has already been another incident in this access lane, involving a Fenwick or electric forklift truck.
- The CFDT had issued a warning on the previous Monday.
- Even if there were a large number of Decathlon shop employees on site, there would have been no witnesses to the accident in the access ramp to the underground car park, apart perhaps from a security guard from a service provider.
- Decathlon's employees are neither trained nor qualified to drive forklift trucks on site, which has led and frequently leads to the use of temporary employment agencies such as Temporis.
- According to our sources, the public prosecutor's office and AFP provided incorrect information about the age of the temporary worker.     

Below is the testimony of an employee, a sales assistant at Decathlon Madeleine and CFDT representative, who was present yesterday at the time of the incident.

At stake: the employee experience, the brand's reputation and compensation for Mr Traoré's family.
Decathlon, like many companies today, is concerned with the employee experience. The same companies are sometimes tempted to publicise the fact that they have been awarded the Great Place To Work label. "But we also need to serve our customers and generate sales, and La Madeleine is a flagship for the group in this respect. Getting goods to customers as quickly as possible so as not to disappoint them, and doing everything to meet deadlines and targets may well have led to this tragedy," confirms an employee. But when it comes to HR, Decathlon needs to make progress. The HR and safety functions are held by former salespeople or shop managers, who don't have an HR culture or training".

The northern French company, one of France's favourites, has been dramatically caught up in a complicated affair. The death involved a temporary worker on his first day of work at Decathlon, on an assignment that was supposed to last just one day. And the police are going to have to investigate. The Paris public prosecutor's office got off to a rather poor start: everywhere, Mr Traoré is presented as a man of thirty-five, as the public prosecutor's office would have indicated. The temporary worker was twenty-five, according to his employer, Temporis,

Various unions, including the CGT and CFDT, have called for a demonstration on Friday 13 October, outside the Madeleine shop, starting at 11am.

Manuel Jacquinet

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