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Latvian-Belarusian border fence builders accused of nonpayment

The owners of guesthouses in the border area of Belarus say they have been waiting at least half a year for payment from the builders of the fence of the eastern border of Latvia. The promised wages for winter work in swampy areas have also allegedly not been received by workers. The general contractor, Citrus Solutions, says subcontractors have not been left in debt, Latvian Television reported September 23.

20 guest workers who were involved in building the Latvian-Belarusian border fence stayed at the scenic landscaped guesthouse by Lake Drīdzis last autumn. As well as staying overnight, they also had the use of a fireplace, sauna, bubble bath, and boats. The landlady was cooking them lunch.

Svetlana Grigorjeva, manager of the recreation complex “Drīdži,” said: “Well, OK, people lived, that's fine. Paid me an advance, but nothing else. Said there was no money.”

Another accommodation near the Belarusian border, the four-star hotel Silene Resort Spa has been left indebted €4,000 by fence builders. Workers from the companies Statoforma and Broste have stayed there.

Head of Silene Resort & Spa Evita Miglāne said: “Given that it was a serious project and serious companies were involved on a national level, we did not expect this kind of turn. Then, when the Lithuanian companies [subcontractors] were asked to pay their bills, threats were even made to leave them alone.”

The company has approached public authorities and ministries involved in the construction of the fence with a request for help. Another state institution – the Labor Inspectorate – has been called by Aleksejs Smirnovs, a resident of Krāslava municipality, who was building a fence last winter, but did not receive the promised remuneration.

“While they [subcontractors] were there, it was ok, they paid. Then they went to Lithuania and disappeared. Not a call, nothing. Paid something, maybe half, but nothing else. We were 5–6 people working with them, it's the same for everyone,” Smirnovs told LTV.

For the construction of some 52 kilometers, the general builder of the fence Citrus Solutions concluded a contract with the Lithuanian company Broste.

Kārlis Kostjukovs, Chairman of the Board of Citrus Solutions Ltd, said: “Where works have been done and accepted, we settle with all companies, but we don't have any tools or influence in how they settle with their subcontractors.”

Latvian Television contacted the Lithuanian company Broste and other Lithuanian companies mentioned above, but no one responded to the comment. When reached, Broste's attorney neither denied nor confirmed that the company was considering litigation with Citrus Solutions.

The commissioning party of the fence construction project – State Real Estate (VNĪ) – this summer searched for companies in Latvia that would engage in construction.

VNĪ board chairman Renārs Griškevičs said: “If someone has not been paid, it is not acceptable. We have had information that there has been no timely settlement with some of the subcontractors and we have requested Citrus Solutions that this be done. ”

The State Labor Inspectorate, on the other hand, explained that Smirnovs and others who have been indebted by Lithuanian companies should apply to the Lithuanian Labor Inspectorate.

Dace Stivrina, Head of the Customer Support Division of the State Labor Inspectorate, said: “If we are talking about not entering into a contract of employment, it is a gross breach that could have to do with the shadow economy.”

Administrative responsibility may be applied in Latvia, but an inspection must be carried out first.

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