Restaurateur embroiled in labour dispute in hospital after fire

Police are uncertain whether fire at Restaurant Vejlegården that sent owner to hospital is linked to union’s blockade

December 21st, 2012 11:01 am| by admin

The owner of a Jutland restaurant at the centre of bitter union blockade has been hospitalised after a fire swept through his restaurant early this morning. Police who found Amin Skov had no comment on his condition other than to say that he had been transported for observation and that he may have suffered smoke inhalation.

Skanderborg gallery owner Erik M Guldager, a family friend who had been given permission to speak about Amin's condition, told Jyllands-Posten he had suffered severe burns to the head and was on a respirator.

The fire triggered an internal alarm summoning the fire brigade, which quickly extinguished the blaze.

Southeast Jutland police reported that a burglar alarm inside Restaurant Vejlegården had gone off before the fire, but declined to speculate whether the two incidents were related.

Police have cordoned off the area immediately surrounding the restaurant while technicians seek to determine the cause of the blaze.

“I doubt that we will have any answers today,” police inspector Brian Olsen told Jyllands-Posten. “This type of investigation can take a while, depending on how hot it is in there.”

Restaurant Vejlegården became the focus of national media attention this summer due to its long-standing conflict with the labour union 3F.

Skov scuttled an existing labour agreement that the restaurant had with 3F, and signed a new one with another Krifa. The wages paid to workers under the new agreement were less than those under the 3F deal.

The case has caused tempers to boil. Skov and Vejle 3F leader Poul Erik Christensen have both been the target of death threats.

Guldager said that Skov’s restaurant had been repeatedly plagued by burglaries and vandalism since the dispute with 3F began in July.

"There has been an extremely tense situation with burglaries, attempted burglaries and vandalism,” said Guldager. "Someone kicked a door in at one point and looked at paperwork and records that they left thrown all over. Three months ago, someone broke in and opened the beer taps, so there was beer all over the restaurant.”

A spokesperson for Krifa issued a statement expressing the union's hope that the fire was not related to the labour dispute.

“A fire is bad enough, but we sincerely hope that it is an accident and has no connection with 3F’s ongoing clash with Restaurant Vejlegården,” said Krifa head Karsten Høgild in a written statement this morning. “It would be a disaster for everyone if the conflict escalated in this fashion.”

Høgild said that his union had sent a letter to 3F yesterday demanding that they stay within legal limits during protests against the restaurant. He said that demonstrators had become “emboldened” by a recent labour court decision that upheld 3F’s right to blockade the restaurant.

“Skov and his family have been under severe pressure for the past several months. We will do everything we can to help and support them,” said Høgild.

Skov had installed surveillance cameras in parts of the restaurant. It is unknown whether the cameras survived the fire.

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