There are three hours left for Sniazhana Muryienka (46 years old), better known as Nieves, to start her shift as a maid at a four-star hotel in Madrid. Born in Belarus, after 20 years in Spain, she feels at home. She has been cleaning rooms since 2016, hired by a temporary employment company (ETT). She has had to swallow several toads. She chained one temporary contract after another for almost four years and the company was decreasing and increasing her shifts depending on the occupancy of the hotel. In 2020 they made her permanent, although her working conditions remain the same. “Sometimes they ask me to work eight consecutive days without a break and I can’t go home until I finish my homework. Nobody cares if I don’t keep my schedule, ”she says sadly.
After years of protest, many chambermaids like Nieves consider that the labor reform approved last month by the Government ignores their demands. “If we represent a third of a hotel’s services, we ask that the hotel hire us directly,” says Nieves. However, the unions believe that the text proposed by Yolanda Díaz opens the door to significant improvements to tackle temporary employment, even in the case of chambermaids. Both the UGT and the Workers’ Commissions (CC OO) attribute the responsibility for the precariousness of these workers to the companies, which, in their opinion, interpret the reform in their own way to maximize their benefits.
Before the entry into force of the new regulation, workers subcontracted by a multiservice company were subject to the agreement of the company itself. Now, on the contrary, the reform establishes that the regulatory framework between contractors and subcontractors will be that of the activity carried out, which in the case of kellys is the hospitality. “The activity of a hotel includes the cleaning of its rooms, which, far from being an auxiliary activity, is its own activity and, therefore, the agreement to which the reform refers is not that of cleaning, but that of hospitality. or the one that applies to the hotel”, point out sources from the Ministry of Labor.
However, the unions warn that the multiservice companies often fail to comply with the guidelines set by the reform and, consequently, it is with them that the kellys they should be angry. “In the reform of the PP, the sectoral agreement did not prevail over the company agreement, so the multiservices were protected under their own agreement to hire chambermaids as cleaning workers,” says Omar Rodríguez, secretary of hospitality and tourism at UGT. Likewise, Rosa Sampedro, secretary of the cleaning sector of the same union, adds that in most of the cleaning sectoral agreements, which usually offer lower conditions, there are no references to the activity of making beds.
The situation of chambermaids is not the same throughout Spain. The sectoral agreements are different in each province and, in some, the hospitality agreement is also applied in the case of outsourcing. From CC OO they warn that since the reform of the PP of 2012 they have tried to restrict the subcontracting of activities from many fronts. “We have forced application clauses of the hospitality agreement in case of outsourcing in 30 provinces -Málaga, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, among others- that add up to 67% of the workforce in the sector”, says Iñigo Vicente, the general secretary in the services sector of the union.
The Las Kellys Unión Association calculates that in all of Spain there are some 150,000 of these workers. María del Mar Jiménez (60 years old), president of the entity in Madrid, has been hired for 20 years by a five-star hotel in the capital and, therefore, depends on the hospitality agreement. She has been raising her voice for some time to limit outsourcing, which increases the bubble of precariousness. The differences between her working conditions and those of Nieves, subject to the cleaning agreement, are notable. “If I do eight rooms instead of ten because I don’t have time to do more, I respect my schedule and leave. Instead, she has to stay until she finishes her work. I earn 1,300 euros and she, less than 800. I have 50 days of vacation a year and she, 22 “, says the spokesperson for the group.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
“They keep laughing at us”
The anger of the kellys Due to the precariousness of his condition, he travels throughout Spain. Sonia, a 37-year-old from Malaga, has worked for the last four years as a maid in a service company. In exchange for just over 300 euros a month, she put in ten hours a week. Three shifts of three hours and 20 minutes each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which, in the end, became five hours a day. “They impose on us a ratio of three rooms per hour, when it is impossible. At most we can do two, but with a very high level of stress. We always go out later”, says the Malaga. Her salary is less than that of the hotel employees who do the same work as her, she does not have time off and she is not paid for food or transportation. “I have worked four months and I have lost 17 kilos. It is a demeaning job, with a huge workload and very stressful,” adds Paqui, 48, who after each working day hurt “even her eyes.”
Sonia and Paqui are part of the 15,000 chambermaids in the province of Malaga, according to calculations by the association Las Kellys Unión. Half are part of the staff of the oldest hotels. The other half works in multi-service companies contracted by the establishments. All should be part of the Malaga hospitality agreement since 2018, according to the agreement reached at the provincial level by unions and employers. “But it is not usually fulfilled”, affirms María Trinidad Jiménez, president of the association and chambermaid since 1994. “We are the base of the hotels, the ones that maintain the rooms, their main product. And yet they keep laughing at us, ”she denounces.
Sampedro, in addition to encouraging the workers to denounce these illegalities, considers that the hotels should take action on the matter. “When they go to a multi-service company to hire chambermaids, they should make it very clear that they follow the hospitality agreement as a reference. There would be no more problems,” he adds. For Rodríguez, the fact that the labor reform gives precedence to the sectoral agreement over the company agreement is “the spearhead to apply the hospitality agreement to chambermaids in all provinces.” “The new norm gives us the tool, but now we have to translate theory into practice,” he says. However, the unions are aware that these changes will not happen overnight.