Big Frango, a division of JBS, has been hit by fines for failing to ensure working safety, operating excessively long shifts, and allowing employees to work for weeks at a time without a break.

Brazil’s Ministry of Work (MPT), following investigations at JBS’ Big Frango Rolandia processing facility in the southern Brazilian state of Parana, has imposed fines of BRL73 million (US$19 million) on the company. Big Frango must now rectify the failings identified or face further fines.

Big Frango slaughters around 350,000 chickens daily, and employs approximately 4,500 workers.

Among those areas highlighted by the MPT are that Big Frango operated shifts of up to 18 hours a day. The working pattern at the site was classified as “harmful to health,” and one employee was identified who had worked for 39 consecutive days.

MPT also said that the company failed to make payments into the state pension fund between August 2013 and December 2014, prejudicing 7,000 workers, and depriving the fund of BRL5.8 million in payments. 4,500 workers. Last year, parent company JBS has sales of BRL120 billion

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The MPT has ordered Big Frango to immediately rectify the problems identified, including giving breaks on a daily and weekly basis, general improvements to the working environment, installing proper guards on machines, the reduction of noise levels, and supplying staff with individual protection equipment necessary to do their jobs.

The company has also been required to improve its accidents at work procedures, improve its refrigeration systems and make payments into the pension fund and give paid holidays.

The changes must be made over the next 12 months or JBS will face additional fines.

“JBS subjected its employees, with the aim of making a profit at any cost, to working days of up to 18 hours, and to working for weeks on end without proper rest,“ said MPT attorney, Heiler Natali.

Inadequate ammonia controls were also identified at the poultry processing facility, putting the lives of employees at risk and contaminating water. The ergonomics of the work area were found to be so poor that 53 percent of staff were found to be relying on some sort of medicine to be able to work, according to Natali.