Madrid calls in emergency workers to clean streets

Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:01pm EST
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By Fiona Ortiz

MADRID (Reuters) - Emergency workers with police escorts will begin cleaning trash off the streets of Spain's capital on Saturday after striking street cleaners failed to reach a deal with their private employers to end an 11-day strike, city officials said.

Madrid's streets and parks have piled up with rubbish after thousands of street cleaners walked off the job on November 5 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 that are now around 1,000 to 1,200 euros ($1,300 to $1,600) a month.

The conflict has become one of the most visible manifestations of Spain's five-year economic and budget crisis, which has forced national and local governments to curtail spending on public services.

Although Spain's economy has begun a tentative recovery, 25 percent 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.

"A lot of tourists have mentioned this is very unpleasant," said Maria Domenech, who manages vacation rentals. "The repercussions are obvious and negative at all levels. How can we defend 'Brand Spain' like this?"

Stacey Augustine, a visitor from the United States walking past piles of trash around the outdoor bars of Plaza Santa Ana, said: "Hopefully it's temporary. It's ugly, it's horrible."   Continued...

A man's shadow is cast on a pavement as he walks on the 11th day of an indefinite strike by street cleaners in Madrid November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Juan Medina