The head of Ajos y Cebollas del Txorierri, A. Rodríguez believes that some union “has deceived the four employees” who denounced him for labor exploitation “so that they tell some false stories.” The workers described to the Bilbao National Police that they were sometimes locked up in the company to peel onions for 26 hours in what “the boss” called “marathons”. For those days he paid five euros an hour. They were workers without a contract or residence permit to whom he paid in black, after endless hours, as certified by the Labor Inspectorate. “They asked me to work a few hours and we did them a favor,” the businessman assures EL PAÍS, against whom there are several alleged crimes for violating labor and social security legislation.
“I know I did wrong and I will have to pay for it,” he acknowledges. But he rejects some of the accusations of the employees, all of them foreigners and without proper documentation. The businessman returned to the plant shortly after five in the afternoon on Wednesday, after the complaint of his employees was made public. An hour later, he explained his version of events to this newspaper. According to his account, there were people who offered themselves to him at Mercabilbao at specific times of high demand. He then “caught” them, but they were occasional workers, they were not always at the plant located in one of the industrial estates of Zamudio. From there, he does recognize that sometimes they extended the work day. According to their version, from nine at night until eight in the morning the next day, but never the 26 that they have denounced. “That is false,” he assures.
Another of his employees confirmed, however, during the same Wednesday afternoon, that the “marathons” are a fact, but that they were sometimes requested by the employees themselves because they were getting 130 euros at once. Ajos y Onions del Txorierri packages these two products without precooking, after cleaning and selecting them, to export them to all of Spain. “But these people came when they wanted, they didn’t have fixed hours or anything, and especially it was in summer. It’s a lie that they slept here, ”says Rodríguez.
In a van with the company logo, parked in a parking lot in the industrial estate, next to the garlic and onion processing plant, was, apparently asleep, a young man who entered the facilities of the company. “I categorically refuse to be bothered, on the contrary, at the time of charging they were rounded up,” says the employer, who faces several crimes against workers’ rights and fines of up to 70,000 euros for violating the legislation in labor and social security matters. After testifying before the judge on duty last week, the businessman was released, but at the disposal of the court.
Rodríguez also denies that when they suffered an occupational accident as a result of their work and had to go to medical services, he instructed them not to mention either the company or the place where they had suffered the injuries, as described by the employees in the complaint. “I wanted to regularize them, but they neither wanted nor could because of their legal situation, they preferred money,” he explains. “Seeing it in a positive light, this is going to be good for me because I will be able to regularize them and have them legal. But the negative publicity of going public is going to make me dust, “he admits.
Following the workers’ complaint, a group of agents from the Bilbao Immigration and Borders Brigade and officials from the Bizkaia Labor and Social Security Inspectorate appeared last week at the Ugaldeguren II industrial estate, where the company is located. They identified a total of eight workers inside. Of them, four were without a residence permit or a work contract. After verifying the seriousness and veracity of the events narrated by these victims, the investigators granted them the status of protected witnesses.