Tenerife Tram Workers Set to Strike Due to Lack of Occupational Risk Prevention

The issue of occupational risk prevention at Metropolitan Tenerife, under the authority of the Island Council, has caused workers to announce a strike just before the Carnivals. The absence of measures for protection against silica dust, lack of transparency in employee remuneration, and the absence of an Equality Plan are among the grievances raised by the employees.

Last June, employees of the company, which operates under the Cabildo, reached an agreement with Metropolitano Tenerife just before they were about to strike. This agreement comprised 22 points relating to the working conditions of the employees. However, the employees now allege that the new island government is attempting to disregard the agreement. Jonay Acosta, the committee secretary of the company, states, “The new administration refuses to honour this agreement, despite it being a Collective Agreement, which should be legally respected.”

The works council secretary explains that the company’s management has exerted pressure on the workers to discourage them from striking by conducting a meeting during working hours.

Additionally, Acosta highlights that the publicly-owned company has used warnings arbitrarily to create an atmosphere of fear among the drivers through unjustified disciplinary actions, such as penalizing them for being just one minute late or for accidents not caused by the workers.

“One of the requisites of the Equality Plan is the submission of a report on remuneration showing the payment details of all employees to identify any wage disparities. However, they refuse to provide it, knowing that it would expose irregularities in Human Resources. The Equality Plan, expected since 2019, is delayed due to their non-compliance,” explains the works council secretary regarding another issue prompting the strike.

Silica sand

A primary concern among employees at Metropolitan Tenerife is the exposure of workers to silica dust, a hazardous substance that has already caused some road company workers to experience discomfort or receive a diagnosis of silicosis.

“We have five workers who have fallen ill due to silica dust. The company refuses to acknowledge this occupational disease and is making every effort to deny the problem. In order for the mutual insurance company to acknowledge it, not only is a diagnosis required, but also the demonstration that the disease has been caused by the workplace. The company needs to prepare a preventive report with the Health and Safety Committee, but they have excluded us from this process. We raised this issue with Eulalia García Silva, Mobility Counselor of the Canarian Coalition, and her response was that the company has the right to defend itself, despite the impact on workers’ health.”

Acosta explains: “The company had committed to replacing the silica sand. However, the new corporation now raises doubts about this commitment, stating that it is contingent on technical feasibility. We have sought mediation from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, as recommended by the Labour Inspection, to ensure that any rejection is due to technical infeasibility. The committee has identified at least 11 employees who are occasionally exposed to this dust.”

Metropolitan Tenerife acknowledges its commitment to replacing silica dust but does not believe that the delay in addressing “certain aspects of the agreement” justifies a strike. Santiago Correa, spokesperson for Metropolitan Tenerife, refutes claims of arbitrary warnings and emphasises the enforcement of rules and procedures for all drivers. The company states that the strike, scheduled until February 18, will not disrupt services during the Carnivals, as they plan to maintain minimum services.

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