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Lusa - Business News - Portugal: Odemira mayor 'complained to police' about 'suspect' work situations




Odemira,Portugal,May.3,2021(Lusa)-The mayor of Odemira, in Portugal's Beja district, has revealed that he filed a complaint with the Judicial Police (PJ) about situations he considered to be suspicious that are the basis of the presence of "many migrant workers" in the municipality.
Two parishes in Odemira are among the handful of areas in mainland Portugal that remain under lockdown due to relatively high rates of new coronavirus cases, even as the rest of the country saw the last major restrictions lifted on Saturday. In their case, officials have cited the overcrowded conditions in which some migrant workers live as a factor in the spread of the virus.
There is "a problem that goes beyond agricultural activity, but, under it, the fact that there are many migrant workers and an intense agricultural activity," the mayor, José Alberto Guerreiro, told journalists after a meeting of the local council's task force to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Guerreiro said that he had reported the suspicious situations to police "around two years ago" and that he himself had already been questioned.
"At that time, I described everything I know and everything that was reported to me, because that is my obligation", he said, stressing that "public entities will have to assess" the situations reported.
According to the mayor, there are commercial establishments in Odemira that "have a number of employees that are not justified by the space", namely "supermarkets with an area of 200 square metres" that "have 30 or 40 workers".
There are also "other very strange issues" where "many of the deals are in cash", he added.
Questioning, for example, "how does one buy a house or a new car in cash", the mayor said that "all this helps this process of housing overcrowding to grow.
"We had the firm idea that it was possible to have the workers that are permanent staff of agricultural companies living in urban environments, in refurbished houses or in houses that they themselves have acquired, but the truth is that these are the ones that are occupied by most of the so-called temporary work and service provision companies," he said.
The mayor stressed that temporary work agencies "are legal, have a license, have conditions for checking the health of their workers and have Covid plans", stressing that their activity must be valued. "I cannot say the same about the so-called service companies that are born and die every day."
He noted that situations identified by the labour inspectorate, the ACT, had already been described to members of parliament.
"They evade VAT [value-added tax] and so do not pay millions, because people then disappear and nobody is responsible", he accused.
According to Guerreiro, the country needs "a clear, objective and up-to-date regulation on the permanence of agricultural workers in a dwelling" as "it does not make much sense" for the health delegate to determine whether "a dwelling is decent or not."
The ACT "complains of not having the capacity to intervene in terms of regulation for collective housing for workers," he said, arguing that there must be "clear rules and it has to be defined who can intervene."
Questioned by Lusa about the municipality's Local Housing Strategy (ELH), the mayor said that "one of the great difficulties" in drafting this document, which he said was being done, "was to understand the dimension of this problem" in the municipality. The council has never been told by government ministries or other official entities what the housing needs are, he said.
According to the mayor, "there is no possible understanding" as the council wants permanent workers to live in existing settlements and temporary workers on farms, while farmers want to opposite.
Portugal's government has imposed a health cordon in the parishes of São Teotónio and Almograve, in the municipality of Odemira, due to the high incidence of coronavirus cases, especially in agricultural workers, the prime minister, António Costa, announced on Thursday.
Costa also stressed that "some population lives in situations of inadmissible housing insalubrity, with hyper overcrowding of dwellings", reporting situations of "enormous risk to public health, besides a blatant violation of human rights."

SM/ARO // ARO.
Lusa

Agency : LUSA

Date : 2021-05-04 09:52:00







 

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