They came to work up to 26 hours in a row in days that the businessman baptized as “marathons”, with only one break to eat and five euros an hour. They started at seven in the morning and ended the next day at nine. All night locked up and non-stop canning garlic and onions. The businessman of Ajos y Cebollas del Txorierri, a food company located in the Zamudio park, in Bizkaia, was arrested last week after the complaint of several employees who described to the Bilbao National Police the regime close to slavery to which submitted them.
The Government Delegation in the Basque Country has confirmed this morning the facts by which the employer faces several crimes against the rights of workers and fines of up to 70,000 euros for violating labor and social security legislation.
After declaring before the judge on duty, he is free but at the disposal of the court. The Labor Inspectorate confirmed that the workers were in an irregular situation without a contract. The Bilbao Foreigners and Borders Brigade found that several of the employees did not have residence permits either. The workers, fed up with being exploited, denounced the events despite being in an irregular situation and being aware of the problems it could cause them. The businessman paid them at five euros an hour. Another method was to pay them one euro for each 12-kilo sack of onions they peeled.
As reported on Wednesday by the Government Delegation, the arrest occurred on August 17 after several employees voluntarily denounced their situation and explained the employer’s practices to the police and labor authority. The workers said that, as they did not have a residence permit, their boss had not formalized any contract for them, receiving a salary of five euros per effective hour of work. They reported that when they suffered an occupational accident as a result of their work and had to go to medical services, the owner instructed them not to mention either the company or the place where they had suffered the injuries.
In addition, they explained that, occasionally, they did what their boss called a “marathon”, consisting of working from seven in the morning until nine in the morning the next day, having only one hour free to eat while they remained locked up all night at the company’s facilities. After verifying the seriousness and veracity of the events narrated by these victims, the investigators granted them the status of protected witnesses.
A group of agents from the Bilbao Immigration and Borders Brigade and officials from the Bizkaia Labor and Social Security Inspectorate came to the company, located in the Ugaldeguren industrial estate (Zamudio), identifying a total of eight workers. Of them, four were without a residence permit or a work contract.
The businessman was arrested. He is accused of an alleged crime against workers’ rights, also facing a possible financial penalty of more than 70,000 euros for violating labor and social security legislation.