The regional labor inspectorate fined the company Verter Recycling, manager of the Zaldibar landfill, 300,000 euros, which collapsed and killed two workers, considering that the necessary preventive measures were not taken while he was aware that there was an “imminent risk of collapse”. The Official Gazette of the Basque Country (BOPV) publishes this Monday the order for the execution of the sanction for “very serious infringement”, despite the fact that the resolution of the sanction formed by the Director of Labor and Social Security of the Ministry of Labor and Employment of the Basque Government, is dated March 1, 2022 and was closed on April 11 because no appeal was filed against it. The fact that criminal proceedings were pending against the company for the landfill collapse lengthened the deadlines for the enforcement of the sanction. In it, the managers have already admitted having committed a reckless homicide.
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The Inspectorate pronounces the sanction for a very serious offense against Verter Recycling for “not having adopted other preventive measures applicable to working conditions in execution of the regulations on the prevention of occupational risks, hence a serious risk and imminent safety and workers’ health. According to the report prepared by the Labor Inspectorate, Verter Recycling was aware of the existence of cracks a few days before the collapse that killed two workers, Joaquín Beltrán and Alberto Sololuze, and despite this, did nothing to protect these workers. The said report even states that company officials were aware of the “imminent risk” of collapse and that on the same day the disaster struck, crushing the two workers under tons of trash, on February 6, 2020, it was attached to send an e-mail warning of “abnormal movement”. Despite this, he allowed the workers to carry on with their tasks without warning them of the danger they were in. The remains of Alberto Sololuze were located in August, six months after the collapse, those of Joaquín Beltrán have never been found.
The Inspectorate’s sanction to the company comes just after the Basque government expressed its satisfaction last week because a report from the European Parliament applauds the direction of the executive of Urkullu in this whole affair, which considers that it acted diligently and that it was the facilities management company, Verter Recycling, that hid decisive reports from monitoring agencies that warned of the instability of a ship being built on the side of a mountain. Another question is whether the Basque government will manage to recover the 28.7 million public euros owed by the company that manages the Zaldibar landfill for the expenses incurred in the search for the deceased workers and for the stabilization carried out in the Mountain. The company is currently in liquidation.
The trial was divided into two parts. On the one hand, the leaders of Zaldibar were accused of reckless homicide for their responsibility in the deaths of Sololuze and Beltrán, but they reached an agreement acknowledging their guilt and agreeing to pay compensation to the families of the victims in exchange of effective prevention entering prison. On the other hand, any associated environmental offenses are being investigated as part of a procedure that is still ongoing.