In Brief

Why Peru’s McDonald’s have closed their doors

The deaths of two teenage employees has prompted protests over workplace safety

McDonald’s has closed all of its branches in Peru for two days following the death of two of its employees.

The two workers, identified as Alexandra Porras Inga, 19, and Gabriel Campos Zapata, 18, died early on Sunday morning while cleaning a McDonald’s kitchen in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

A report in The New York Times suggested they were both electrocuted by a faulty drinks machine, with the BBC adding that the deaths have prompted protests in Lima against poor working conditions.

The Guardian says that the teenagers had dated while at school and had been saving to study at university.

McDonald’s Peru wrote on Twitter: “In response to the terrible loss of our two colleagues Carlos Gabriel Edgardo Campos Zapata and Alexandra Antonella Porras Inga, we wish to announce that we have declared two days of mourning from this morning, during which all our restaurants nationwide will remain closed.”

The company said it was cooperating fully with the authorities investigating the deaths and offering support to their families.

All staff would be paid during the two days when the restaurants were shut, and the firm’s operating company in Peru, Arcos Dorados, said it shared “the sorrow and extreme pain of the affected families”.

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Protesters are angry at what they see as the country’s exploitative work market, which has become notorious for its lax labour regulations, poor health and safety standards and low pay, the Guardian reports. And it says that almost 70% of Peru’s workforce labours in unregulated conditions, according to the country’s statistics institute.

Indira Huilca, a former congresswoman, said the latest deaths are indicative of a country that has concentrated on attracting private investment rather than prioritising worker safety. She added that “everyone knows” that many Peruvians, and in particular young people, work in dangerous conditions, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper also reports that on Monday, Peru’s workplace safety department, the Superintendencia Nacional de Fiscalizacion Laboral, said it had “begun an investigation into conditions” at the McDonald’s restaurant, and that the fast food chain “could face its highest fine – up to 189,000 soles (or about £43,000) — if violations were found”.

Johana Inga, Porras’s mother, told local TV her daughter had complained she was made to do cleaning work without proper safety equipment, such as gloves and boots, and had to work 12-hour shifts.

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