Every McDonald’s in Peru has shut down for two days in mourning of two teenage employees who were killed last weekend in an electrical accident during an overnight shift in a Lima location. Their deaths have raised awareness of workplace safety, and Peruvians have been gathering for public protests to increase protections for workers.
Alexandra Porras Inga and Gabriel Campos Zapata were friends as well as coworkers, the New York Times reported. Early Sunday morning, during their shift at a 24-hour McDonald’s in Lima’s Pueblo Libre neighborhood, Porras Inga received a fatal electric shock while cleaning a soda machine; when Campos Zapata tried to help her, he also received a fatal shock.
On Monday, Arcos Dorado, the company that operates McDonald’s Peru, issued a public statement on Twitter in which it offered its sympathy to Porras Inga and Campos Zapata’s families and announced that it was closing all the nation’s locations for two days in mourning. It also said it would cooperate with the authorities in investigating their deaths. But the Guardian reported that local firefighters and municipal security were prevented from entering the building on Sunday morning.
Porras Inga’s mother said that when she visited the McDonald’s, she saw that there were wet floors and loose cables and that her daughter had not been wearing boots or gloves or any other kind of safety equipment.
Throughout Peru, there has been an outpouring of stories from workers about their own experiences with unsafe workplaces that led to protests on Tuesday outside the McDonald’s and statements from labor leaders. Peru’s economy has been growing rapidly, but according to the country’s national statistics institute, more than 70% of of the labor force works in unregulated conditions.
The government’s workplace safety agency is investigating McDonald’s culpability in the deaths, and if the company is found responsible, it will have to pay a fine of 189,000 soles ($56,288). Some think that there’s no question of the company’s guilt. “Two employees die working a shift at a place of work – there’s no doubt it was a work accident,” labor lawyer and former government employment minister Christian Sanchez told the Guardian. “There’s no need for a 30-day investigation.”