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Employees exposed to life-threatening working conditions

The Danish Working Environment Authority has given the Portuguese metro contractor 15 immediate injunctions in one year.
Employees exposed to life threatening working conditions

The following text is taken from an article in 3F fagbladet, on 12/11 2020. https://fagbladet3f.dk/artikel/ansatte-udsat-livsfarlige-arbejdsforhold

The Danish Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet) has given a Portuguese metro contractor 15 immediate injunctions in one year. (Immediate injunctions means the danger is so acute that the company must correct the error immediately). (..)

Two former employees say they were fired after complaining about the lack of security. (..)

- On the surface, everything looks fine, but down in the metro tunnel it changes completely. We have worked without fall protection and worked on scaffolding without certification, says Gregorio Carlos Viera, a former metro worker at Vilaplano, to Fagbladet 3F.

In some cases, the safety conditions have been so dire that the employees were in danger of "injury in the form of a broken bone or death", as the Danish Working Environment Authority writes in an immediate order given to Vilaplano on the metro construction in Sydhavnen on 11 September. (..)

Was fired after complaint

Poor and in some cases life-threatening safety conditions at Vilaplano caused the two metro workers at the Sydhavnsmetro building Virgolino Wode Da Silva Ialá and Gregorio Carlos Viera to say stop to their employer Vilaplano.

The two 3F members, who are originally from Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, but who have lived in Portugal for 22 years, tell Fagbladet 3F that they repeatedly made Vilaplano aware of the unsatisfactory conditions, but without anything happening.

- The main contractor has a security system that works. But as soon as they look away, Vilaplano ignore safety. They do not worry about the safety of employees, says Virgolino Wode Da Silva Ialá.

Instead of doing something about the problems, Vilaplano replied with a dismissal notice in mid-October, according to Virgolino Wode Da Silva Ialá and Gregorio Carlos Viera.

- They said it was because there was a lack of work. But we think they fired us because we complained about the poor safety, says Gregorio Carlos Viera.

The Portuguese metro worker also believe that Vilaplano was not happy with the fact that he and his colleague had joined the trade union 3F BJMF.

The two now have to go back to Portugal. However, they hope to be able to return to Denmark to work one day. But next time, it should be under better conditions, they say.

- I hope I can come back after Christmas at another Danish company. We have been fired without doing anything wrong. We have only asked too many critical questions about safety and legislation, says Gregorio Carlos Viera.

Byggefagenes Samvirke: The punishment must be sharpened

Niels Bergløv, who is chairman of the Working Environment Committee of Byggefagenes Samvirke in Copenhagen, calls it insane that Vilaplano, even after repeated instructions and immediate orders from the Danish Working Environment Authority, does not seem to rectify the safety conditions. (..)

Niels Bergløv believes that there is a need for stricter penalties for companies that do not comply.

- Here we see a company where the employees in some cases have risked losing their lives at work. We will have to sharpen the fine to companies or ultimately deprive them of the opportunity to do business, if they repeatedly ignore the working environment law, he says.

Construction manager: Firing is not about complaint

At Vilaplano, business manager David Sousa acknowledges that the company has had problems with safety on the Sydhavn Metro. (..) However, he denies that the dismissal of Gregorio Carlos Viera and Virgolino Wode Da Silva Ialá has anything to do with their complaint about the dangerous working environment. (..) He also denies that the dismissals have anything to do with the membership of the two former employees of 3F. (..)