Rafael Rubio, who has worked for TMB (the company running Barcelona’s underground) since 1978, is about to start a legal battle. He wants recognition that his asbestosis was caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles over his years of work for Barcelona’s underground transport system. His claim, which was discussed yesterday at a press conference in the headquarters of the lawyers’ association Col·lectiu Ronda, is being denied by TMB. The company argues that to this day only 22 cases of underground workers with this sort of disease have been recorded, and that none of them are as serious as Rubio’s .
The eight trade unions that make up the underground’s works council believe that this case is a clear example of the “opaque” policy adopted by management and they are accusing the company of ignoring evidence of a serious occupational health problem that could also be an issue for public health. In consequence, they have called for the resignations of CEO Enric Cañas and president Mercedes Vidal.
The unions see Rafael Rubio’s case as merely the tip of the iceberg and yesterday called on retired workers and the relatives of workers who passed away due to lung diseases to get in touch and consider taking legal action. Rubio suggested that the significant mortality rate of workers from the same workshop as him may have been asbestos related.
Rubio said yesterday that he used to work in a pit where the train’s wheels and brake pads were spun and that he was constantly exposed to streams of dust (for years without any protective gear). It was not until 2002 that, in keeping with the law, material containing asbestos was removed.