Time to Trash the Town

The Spanish are no strangers to protesting, and recently they have been turning that infamous energy towards the cause of worker’s rights. Huelgas, the Spanish word for protests, have infiltrated the news as a result of the recent cutbacks by the Malaga-based waste-management company Limasa. Many of the company’s employees have refused to continue working under new proposals that would reduce their salaries and lower the standards for working conditions. Limasa’s employees took to the streets and protested in the only way they deemed fitting – by trashing the town.

Malaga is a cultural hub that draws locals and tourist alike to its beautiful beaches along the Costa del Sol and to the processions of Semana Santa – Easter parades. The city relies heavily on tourism to support its economy, especially during the weeks leading up to Easter, when the streets are filled with processions honoring Jesus. At one of the prime times for tourism, the workers of Limasa have refused to clean the streets, leaving the town covered in piles of trash. It’s been estimated that 3,500- 5,000 tons of waste[1] have accumulated in the streets over the course of the 11-day protest. The Vice-President of the Costa del Sol Housekeeper’s Association stated that hotel reservations have dropped over the course of the protest as a result of the grotesque amount of trash lining the city streets[2]. With the current huelga threatening the tourist industry, the local government has agreed to negotiate with Limasa, which is partially state owned, to find a solution to the copious amounts of litter piling up on Old Town’s streets.

After eleven days, the protest finally came to an end early in the morning of March 11th[3]. In addition to higher wages to support their families, workers had been pushing for longer summer vacations and for a return to the workers’ rights originally contracted in 2012[4]. Limasa responded by stating that the working conditions were in line with a revised contract made in 2013 that implied a series of cuts which forced workers to be contracted under a circumstance pact that doesn’t guarantee full job stability[5]. Francisco de la Torre, the head advocate for the workers of Limasa, has worked closely over the past few days with Manuel Belmonte, the representative for Limasa, to reach a new agreement that’s beneficial for both the workers and the company. However, neither party is fully satisfied by the currently unsigned agreement which mostly abides by the desires of the workers. The new contract states that the workers cannot protest for another two years, will receive the same payment this year of €30,000 and €35,000[6] for next year, will receive 15 days of summer vacation and 21 days of vacation for the rest of the year, and will receive resting time on Saturdays and Sundays[7]. The workers are still pursuing compensation for the 11 days of work missed during the protest, but Limasa is refusing to pay.

The residents of Malaga have clearly expressed their dissatisfaction with the protests. A counter-protest brought together everyone from retirees to students in the fight against the Limasa workers. Many counter-protesters took to the streets chanting, “¡No más chantajes![8]”(Stop blackmailing), believing that the Limasa protestors were not justified in their actions. One resident, Alba Cánovas, told the Spanish newspaper, El Confidencial, that the workers of Limasa, “make more than the local police, it’s a corruption, a mafia,[9]” in response to the recent protest. Alba went on and told the newspaper that the workers should be grateful for having a job in a country where the unemployment rate hovers around 20%[10]. However, the workers still demand better working conditions, while many residents in the city find themselves without work or sufficient pay.

Voicing dissatisfaction enables change. The protesters of Limasa successfully gained the attention they desired in order to improve their working conditions. By taking extreme measures that left Malaga in a filthy state, the protesters forced the company to acknowledge that contracts must be changed in order to improve labor conditions. Though it cost the city, both economically and hygienically, the workers of Limasa are on track to receive the benefits they believe they deserve.

 

[1] “Comienza la reirada de la basura tras 11 días de huelga en Málaga,” ABC España, March 11, 2016, http://www.abc.es/espana/abci-ayuntamiento-malaga-acuerda-sindicatos-desconvocatoria-huelga-limpieza-201603110701_noticia.html

[2] “Málaga strike continues with rubbish clogging streets,” The Guardian,” March 11, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/11/malaga-strike-continues-with-rubbish-clogging-streets

[3] “Termina la huelga de limepieza de Málaga tras 11 días y 4.000 toneladas de basura,” El Economista, March 11, 2016, http://www.eleconomista.es/economia/noticias/7415191/03/16/Termina-la-huelga-de-limpieza-de-Malaga-tras-11-dias-y-4000-toneladas-de-basura.html

[4]Luis M. Carceller, “¿Qué quieren los trabajadores de la empresa de limpieza de Málaga?, El Mundo, March 9, 2016, http://www.elmundo.es/andalucia/malaga/2016/03/09/56dff377e2704eeb508b4587.html

[5] “Comienza la reirada de la basura tras 11 días de huelga en Málaga,” ABC España, March 11, 2016, http://www.abc.es/espana/abci-ayuntamiento-malaga-acuerda-sindicatos-desconvocatoria-huelga-limpieza-201603110701_noticia.html

[6] Luis M. Carceller, “¿Qué quieren los trabajadores de la empresa de limpieza de Málaga?, El Mundo, March 9, 2016, http://www.elmundo.es/andalucia/malaga/2016/03/09/56dff377e2704eeb508b4587.html

[7] Javier García Recio, “Acuerdo ‘solvente’ para desconvocar la huelga de limpieza,” La Opinión de Málaga, March 11, 2016, http://www.laopiniondemalaga.es/malaga/2016/03/10/reunion-acuerdo-huelga-limasa/834851.html

[8] Agustín Rivera, “Huelga de basura en Málaga y tensión contra los empleados de limpieza: ‘¡Alcalde, échalos!’” El Confidencial, March 9, 2016, http://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/andalucia/2016-03-09/huelga-de-basura-en-malaga-tension-contra-los-empleados-alcalde-echalos_1165969/

[9] Agustín Rivera, “Huelga de basura en Málaga y tensión contra los empleados de limpieza: ‘¡Alcalde, échalos!’” El Confidencial, March 9, 2016, http://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/andalucia/2016-03-09/huelga-de-basura-en-malaga-tension-contra-los-empleados-alcalde-echalos_1165969/

[10] “Spain Unemployment Rate,” last mortified January 28, 2016, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

 

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