Rubbish piles up in Madrid as street cleaners strike

Tuesday 19 November 2013 16.09
Rubbish is piling up after thousands of street cleaners in Madrid walked off the job
Rubbish is piling up after thousands of street cleaners in Madrid walked off the job

Emergency workers with police escorts are cleaning rubbish off the streets of Spain's capital after striking street cleaners failed to reach a deal with their private employers to end an 11-day strike.

Madrid's streets and parks have piled up with rubbish after thousands of street cleaners walked off the job on 5 November in protest at plans to lay off 1,134 of the city's 6,000 maintenance workers.

The street-cleaning units of the infrastructure companies OHL, Sacyr and FCC, who all have contracts with the city, offered to reduce the layoffs to 296.

But unions rejected the deal, which would have cut wages.

The conflict has become one of the most visible manifestations of Spain's five-year economic and budget crisis.

The crisis has forced national and local governments to curtail spending on public services.
              
Although Spain's economy has begun a tentative recovery, 25% of the workforce remain unemployed and there are frequent protests against public spending cuts.
              
Visits to Madrid are already way down this year due to economic woes.          

Madrid's city hall said emergency workers would begin cleaning after it filed a complaint against the maintenance firms.

They said emergency workers failed to meet obligations to maintain 40% service during labour conflicts.

The plan to call in emergency workers would be reversed if there was a deal to end the strike, a city press officer said.
              
The emergency workers, contracted by the publicly-owned Tragsa, which usually fights forest fires and mops up oil slicks, will provide only 40% of normal cleaning hours.
              
A union leader said he could not rule out clashes between strikers and the emergency workers.
              
Residential rubbish collection in the city of 3.2m has not been affected by the strike, which involves only staff who collect rubbish from bins on streets and in parks.