MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After facing a torrent of criticism for their treatment of workers at Miami International Airport, Eulen America is facing new accusations at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.
Eulen recently took over the wheelchair services contract for Delta Airlines at Fort Lauderdale, but instead of hiring the existing workers who were doing the job, the company is accused of firing more than a dozen of them even though county rules forbid them from doing so.
“I cannot pay my rent, I cannot pay my bills. I live alone and I don’t know what to do,” said Jean Pierre Louis, one of the workers who lost his job. “If Eulen cannot help us, Eulen should be terminated.”
Under Broward’s Worker Retention Ordinance, if a company takes over an existing service at the airport, the company is required to keep the workers in place for at least 45 days to give them a chance to prove themselves.
There were 50 employees who provided wheelchair services for elderly and handicapped passengers on Delta flights. Eulen kept only 24 of them.
On Tuesday Broward County Commissioners heard from some of the fired employees and tried to press company officials for answers. Commissioners appeared especially shaken when they heard from Antoine Gutierrez, whose young son had only weeks earlier died of cancer.
“I really need this job to pay all the bills because I’m the only one supporting the family right now,” he told commissioners. “Please help us out.”
Broward Mayor Mark Bogen asked Gutierrez if the company gave him a reason for firing him.
“Never got a phone call,” he said. “Nothing.”
Nadege Moise, who has worked at the airport for eight years, said she couldn’t believe she was thrown out of her job.
“I’m the only one who provides for my dad who is disabled, my mom and my disabled brother,” she said. “And I have two children. I’m a single mother.”
Speaking on behalf of Eulen, the firm’s lobbyist, Guillermo Cuadra, denied the company did anything wrong.
“One of the things I want to make clear to all of you is that at least from Eulen’s perspective we don’t believe there is a violation,” he said. “We’d be happy to work with your county attorney as well as with the aviation staff to make sure that we are in full compliance.”
But Helene O’Brien, Florida Director for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents airport workers, said Eulen had a history of problems at Fort Lauderdale airport and urged commissioners to take action.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “Show them that there are consequences for their bad behavior.”
Commissioners will decide in the coming weeks what action, if any, to take against Eulen. Vice Mayor Dale Holness, however, made it clear he no longer had confidence in Eulen and would push to have them removed from the airport.
He said he visited the airport recently and tried to get the company to talk to the workers and resolve the problem.
“You refused to engage them,” he said. “you’ve treated them very poorly. You have not communicated with them. This is why we are here today. And this is not the first time. Eulen has been a very difficult, to say it mildly, employer at the airport.”
“Of all the folks out there,” Holness added, “probably Eulen is the worst in terms of complying with the rules and regulations that we set forth and treatment of these employees.”
The CEO of Eulen America, Xavier Rabell issued the following statement to CBS Miami:
“As part of Eulen Group, our dedication to safety and compliance is in our corporate DNA—globally as well as locally. The facts are clear, Eulen workers in 12 of the 14 countries we operate in are unionized, and despite union efforts to drum up support, there has not been sufficient interest among Eulen America workers to petition for a vote. We have no restrictions on unionizing, and we do not interfere with the freedom to choose to form a union.
“Earlier this month, we were honored to begin our new airline service provider agreement at FLL and start delivering outstanding service. Under that effort, Eulen has committed full resources to ensure all past contractor workforce members retain their positions. Eulen already has begun the process of making job offers to these employees, and we are committed to assuring full compliance with all airport regulations. We are working closely with Broward County to meet all workforce requirements.”