LABOR DISPUTE

Arrests made as Madrid garbage strike enters second week

Street cleaners facing personnel reduction plan accused of vandalism and failing to maintain minimum service

A woman walks past garbage piled up in Madrid's Amaniel street on Monday. / J.J. Guillén (EFE)

As a strike by Madrid street cleaners entered its second week, the police on Monday reported 14 arrests during pickets and protests by sector workers against the decision by companies contracted by City Hall to lay off 1,134 employees in the capital under a labor force reduction plan (known as an ERE).

The latest arrest occurred on Monday when a worker attempted to go to his post in Vírgen de la Encina street at 7am. Iván R. R., a 33-year-old Spaniard, was set upon by a number of people and assaulted, the police said, resulting in one arrest and the identification of several other suspects. The authorities added that many of the detainees over the past week are not sector workers, as was the case with the five people arrested over the weekend.

On Monday, representatives of the three contractors and the labor unions met to negotiate the terms of the ERE. Félix Carrión, a spokesman for the CCOO union, said that no agreement had been reached. Protests were staged outside the offices of the companies during the day.

The companies have offered to reduce the number of layoffs to 625 employees with a compensation package of 27 days' pay for every year worked, up to a total of the equivalent of 20 monthly payments. They also tabled a temporary layoff plan of a month and cost-cutting measures amounting to 12 percent of costs.

Vandalism and fires

City Hall has complained that minimum service agreements — which guarantee 40 percent of the normal service — have not been adhered to. Further protests are planned throughout the coming week as the negotiations continue and trash piles up across the capital. Separately, the city government has reported 260 incidences of garbage containers being set on fire and a further 40 cases of vandalism against public property, which the municipal and National Police forces are investigating.

City Hall said on Sunday it would increase the number of police escorts assigned to cleaning teams sent to tackle the points in the city where the most garbage has accumulated. The Madrid mayor, Ana Botella, the chief of security in the capital, José Enrique Núñez, and the environment secretary, Diego Sanjuanbenito, met on Sunday and pledged to increase the police presence to prevent more acts of vandalism and to ensure the smooth running of the agreed minimum service levels.

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