Peruvian government firms up labour laws after workers electrocuted in McDonald's

People protest outside a McDonald's restaurant in Lima, after the the deaths of two teenage employees. PHOTO: REUTERS

LIMA (REUTERS) - Peru's government on Friday night (Dec 27) announced measures to strengthen penalties for companies found responsible for workplace accidents, days after two McDonald's franchisee workers died in one of its restaurants.

Minister of Labour Sylvia Caceres said from now on there would be an automatic closure of 10 to 20 days of businesses where accidents happened to allow for a full investigation, which could extend to 30 days if the company's responsibility for the accident was determined.

"Closure (for the 30-day maximum) will be considered when it has been determined that the employer has breached its obligations and thereby affected the health and life of its workers," Caceres told a news conference on Friday night.

She made no mention of the deaths of Alexandra Porras, 18, and Carlos Campo, 19, a young couple who died by electrocution while cleaning the kitchen of a McDonald's restaurant operated by its Latin American franchisee Arcos Dorados.

The general manager of the McDonald's operating firm in Peru said in an interview with local TV that the drinks supply machine at the restaurant was suffering from an electrical fault that its managers had not reported to the company's maintenance department.

This week, the labour inspection agency found Arcos Dorados Peru guilty of six "very serious" safety and health violations that caused the death of pair and proposed the company be fined US$254,000 (S$340,000).

Caceres said that fines for fatal accidents "have no relevance if they do not even affect the operation of the company economically."

"We believe that this is a step forward to reinforce the dissuasive capacity that the labour inspectorate must exert for employers who deliberately and irresponsibly breach their obligations and affect the health of our workers," she said.

Arcos Dorados said last week that all 29 McDonald's restaurants in Peru would remain closed until they finished their own site inspections.

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