In recent times, tourism and hotel businessmen have repeatedly complained about the shortage of personnel and an alleged lack of vocations in the sector. But their complaints often hide a b-side that the workers denounce: endless hours, night shifts that are not paid, wages cut based on not contributing all the hours worked and generalized precariousness. And in the case of Catalonia, in addition, a collective agreement that expired in 2019.
All this configures an explosive situation in tourist areas such as the Costa Brava, which expects a summer of record numbers of visitors with the recovery after the pandemic. On the 9th, businessmen from the sector lamented at an event organized in Lloret de Mar that they are having more and more problems finding workers, and assured that it is necessary to adjust the labor supply, and that this summer they will not be able to open completely. Restaurateurs and hoteliers see a lack of motivation in the candidates, while the unions denounce that the sector offers poor working conditions.
Next week the social agents sit down to negotiate the future agreement for Catalonia. But there are few businesses that, due to how the hospitality industry has been operating for decades, comply with the agreement. This is confirmed by the unions and confirmed by waiters, who denounce long hours that prevent conciliation, without holidays and being paid in black.
“Hopefully they do not want to recover what they think they have lost due to the pandemic, saving staff and with more cuts,” warns Antonio Ferro, head of the CC OO services sector in Girona. Ferro believes that, based on “cheats”, many hotels, but especially bars and restaurants, -where there is generally no union representation-, have managed to get waiters to accept worse conditions than those that they are entitled to by law “and they have finished loading the sector. Most do not want to denounce it, which is why, several voices point out, “the Labor Inspectorate would have to act”.
Albert, who, like the other interviewees, prefers to give a fictitious name, works in a bar that serves food in the heart of the Costa Brava. He started at the age of 18 and already has 35 seasons. He thinks he gets paid more than his 20-something peers. He earns what the agreement establishes, plus “the black” (500 euros). In total 1,700 euros per month. He works half a year, in theory 40 hours a week, but he fakes the two consecutive days off. “The first month and a half we get one day off, but from San Juan to mid-September we don’t even have a holiday. They charge a little more, but with my age it is no longer worth it. They are tremendous beatings, ”he assures. Albert believes that “if employers don’t change the chip, it will get worse and worse” and he longs for retirement: “The summer months kill me, I end up devastated, I can’t last until October.”
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
In Calella de Palafrugell, Mónica celebrates a decade in the same bar and charges 1,300 euros. She remembers how, years ago, before Easter, “a bundle of resumes would arrive. Now, not one.” “In any job they pay night shifts, in factories, in supermarkets… Less in the hotel industry!” She criticizes. The employer pretends, Monica explains, that he extends his contract so that he can do more hours than those allowed by law. In the Cap de Creus area, in the north of the Costa Barva, Joan understands the lack of waiters: “It’s not like in the Canary Islands, where there is always a fairly stable job. Here comes a time when you work wildly”. He also considers it important “that colleagues work well: if you get one who doesn’t find out, get ready.” Elena is “fed up”. She works in Lloret de Mar and is aware that the employers “propose cuts”. She bursts out: “Well, let them cut more until there is a strike that closes everything and they have to listen to us.”
Ania, a businesswoman from Palamós, argues that “the hotel industry, as it is today, it is impossible to govern it for two days of celebration in a row. You have to make trips to not do anything illegal; it’s almost impossible”. She pays 1,425 euros to the waiters for 40 hours, but she is also forced to negotiate “overtime”. She started as a waitress and acknowledges that “now it is more regulated.”
play with the same cards
One of those that complies with the agreement “to the letter” is the Park Hotel San Jorge de Calonge, says Irene Elias, its director. It has 70 fixed and discontinuous fixed in template. Since it doesn’t close, they had to expand it to be able to take turns. They work 40 hours with two holidays and one weekend out of three. All are in agreement except the directors, who agree. “We do not lack workers, they want to come because they know that they rest according to what is established and the hours they play,” says Elias. This year she has hired a cook who used to work more than 10 hours a day in a restaurant in Platja d’Aro. “The ideal would be for everyone to play with the same cards and be fair, so unfair competition would not exist,” she says. “It has gotten so tight that there are people who have not wanted to continue,” laments Elias. She also points to “a very serious problem of lack of training. They don’t know any languages either.” That is why she sees it as necessary “to give packaging to this profession that we have taken down among the entire sector in general. We must be fair. The agreement is for there to be a balance between all”.