Tuesday, January 29, 2013

To Hell in a Dust Cart

The financial crisis in Spain has been top of the agenda for European finance ministers for some time. But it was not EU-imposed austerity measures that provoked the recent 13 day strike by street cleaners and refuse collectors in Granada. 

The dispute, over cuts to wages and reduced terms and conditions, was not the result of spending cuts by the city authorities, but of an opportunistic attempt by private contractor Inagra to boost profits. The company is a subsidiary of Cespa, the ninth largest waste company in Europe, itself a division of Spanish construction group Ferrovial, owner of BAA (which runs Heathrow) and Amey (the main contractor building Crossrail).

The stoppage appears to be part of a wave of strikes across Spain. According to a report by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), the big European waste disposal companies are attempting to restore falling profits by cutting costs in their contracts with municipalities, as the industrial and commercial waste markets have shrunk in the recession. 

The episode in Granada ended in defeat for the workers a few days before I arrived there last week (thus, regrettably, missing scenes apparently reminiscent of our very own Winter of Discontent). With unemployment in Andalucia the highest of any region in Spain and even, according to one report, anywhere in the EU, they were in an unenviable position. Now they are back on the streets (above) with a 2.5% pay cut, eight days less annual leave, and an increase in the working week from 35 to 37.5 hours.  As in the UK, it is a balanced economy: the poor get poorer so the rich can get richer. More pictures here.

"Take to the Streets Against the Cuts"

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