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Madrid calls in public firm to clear up mounting garbage

Ultimatum given to striking companies by Mayor Ana Botella expired on Friday evening

Food strewn across the ground in Jesús street. Ampliar foto
Food strewn across the ground in Jesús street. EL PAÍS

Madrid City Hall on Friday moved to call in publicly owned company Tragsa to clear up the mountains of garbage that have accumulated in the capital as the result of an 11-day strike. The decision came after private sector contractors failed to guarantee the minimum services stipulated by the law within a 48-hour ultimatum imposed by Mayor Ana Botella.

Leading construction and services firms OHL, Ferrovial, Sacyr and FCC had failed to even provide 70 percent of the minimum services agreed with City Hall, alleging they had been prevented from doing so by violent pickets.

Botella imposed the ultimatum after coming in for heavy criticism of her handling of the stoppage both at home and in the foreign press. She also called for an agreement between the companies and workers within the same 48-hour period.

The ongoing stoppage was sparked by the contractors presenting a labor-force adjustment plan (ERE), affecting 1,134 street cleaners of a total of 6,000 employees in the sector in Madrid, as well as a round of pay cuts.

The companies on Friday offered to reduce the layoffs to 296, but labor representatives were still holding out as they believe the rest of the adjustment will take the form of even steeper wage cuts.

“We are far away from an agreement as long as the threat of layoffs and salary reductions is on the table,” said a UGT union representative, Alfredo Turienzo.

However, Francisco Jardón, the chairman of the association that groups together street-cleaning contractors, said before going into another meeting with labor representatives in the evening that he was hopeful of reaching an agreement that would end the strike.

The negotiating period established for the ERE ends on Saturday. The two sides are also in the process of trying at reach a new collective agreement for the sector as a whole.