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O-I Glass worker dies after furnace leaks in Brazil

2 December, 2021Brazilian glass workers’ union Sindicato dos Vidreiros held a two-hour protest on 1 December in São Paulo, Brazil, after O-I Glass worker Antônio Carlos Tola Júnior was killed in a preventable workplace accident.

The tragedy happened on 10 November when a glass furnace leaked at an O-I Glass factory in São Paulo, Brazil, resulting in injuries to four workers. One of the workers, Antônio Carlos Tola Júnior, 43, a batch and furnace coordinator, was admitted to hospital with burns to 75 per cent of his body. He died on 26 November leaving behind a wife and daughter. Immediately after the incident, the union organized a protest rally on 12 November. Another protest was staged on 1 December to commemorate the deceased worker. The lives of the three injured workers are no longer at risk.

Sindicato dos Vidreiros, a member of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate CNQ-CUT, is continuing its investigation into the incident, including negligence over the furnace handling. The union had previously received complaints from workers who operated the furnace that the equipment was old and that the warranty issued by the manufacturer expired three years ago. The furnace was almost 9 years old and had structural problems.

According to the union, the furnace has had a leakage problem since last year, but the company commissioned only minor remedial works without considering the imminent risk. After a decision by the competent body Workers’ Health Reference Centre (Cerest), in collaboration with the union Sindicato dos Vidreiros, further use of the furnace is prohibited.

The union leader of the Sindicato dos Vidreiros de São Paulo, Josemar Souto, said that the incident was imminent, as the furnace in which the leak occurred had been operating at a higher capacity than recommended since 2013. The union will conduct a careful investigation of the facts. The maximum extraction was 280 tonnes per day, but the equipment was used to process around 340 tonnes per day.

"We are not going to recover the life of our comrade, but we cannot tolerate any sign of impunity",

says Josemar Souto. 

IndustriALL materials officer Alexander Ivanou said:

“We express our deep condolences to the family, union and co-workers. We insist on a proper investigation of the incident with union participation. One death is too many, profit should never become before workers’ lives. O-I should provide healthy and safe workplaces in their operations. This is only possible if the company start dialogue with workers and their unions at local national and global level!”

The multinational glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois, which trades as O-I, employs 25,000 people in North and South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.