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LABOR DISPUTE

Madrid street cleaners end their strike as unions hammer out deal on layoffs

Workers will be given 45-day unpaid furloughs over the next four years

The meeting on Sunday afternoon of the four workers' committees representing Madrid's street cleaners and gardeners in the Templo de Debod park. Ampliar foto
The meeting on Sunday afternoon of the four workers' committees representing Madrid's street cleaners and gardeners in the Templo de Debod park. EFE

Street cleaners in Madrid on Sunday voted to accept an agreement reached before dawn between their unions and the city’s private contractors to head off a reduction of their workforce and end a nearly two-week-long strike that resulted in filth and garbage piled up throughout the capital.

At four separate assemblies divided by districts in which they work, the street sweepers and gardeners voted on the deal that calls for annual temporary furloughs for every employee to take place for the next four years.

Workers are expected to hit the streets later Sunday to start their evening shifts.

Following a meeting that lasted more 15 hours, the three companies FCC, OHL and Sacyr withdrew their initial plans to lay off 1,134 of the total 6,000 workers – a figure that eventually dropped to less than 300 during the negotiations.

Instead, the unions involved in the talks – the UGT, CCOO, CGT, USO and CSIF – agreed to allow temporary furloughs of 45 days per year for the next four years for each employee. During those periods, street cleaners will be allowed to collect unemployment benefits before they return to their jobs.

There will also be salary and hiring freezes up until 2017. Street cleaners earn between 500 euros a month (for those who do weekend shifts) to 1,300 euros.

According to UGT sources, the three contractors have also agreed not to plan any more layoffs or modify the terms of the initial agreement until the four-year period expires.

A fourth private company, Ferrovial, did not plan any layoffs but its workers joined the strike in solidarity with their colleagues.

The strike, which began on November 5, resulted in mountains of garbage piling up throughout Madrid, including fallen leaves and branches blown down by recent high winds scattered about many streets. At least 19 people had been arrested during the strike for destroying trash bins and other types of vandalism.

After giving contractors and unions a 48-hour deadline to end the strike on Thursday, at the weekend Madrid Mayor Ana Botella called in the publicly owned company Tragsa to clear up the garbage that had accumulated in the capital. Some 200 temporary cleaners focused on the city center while trash still lingered in many outlying neighborhoods.

Botella had come under fire by member of her own Popular Party (PP) to take stronger action over the dispute after she was severely criticized in the international press.