“They see us as slaves”: this is how it is to be a waiter in the most touristic cities of Spain in summer | Economy

Alba Adara (19 years old) and two of her friends worked last summer as waitresses. Only she is willing to repeat this year. “There are regular customers that you grow fond of, who treat you well, but in summer most of them see you as a slave. They are very impatient, even if they see that you are running. It is a very hard job and very poorly paid, ”says this woman, who works in one of the restaurants on the Valencia seafront. Her worst memory of her first summer working for her is a client who didn’t like the containers she was given with her leftovers, “so she opened them up and threw the contents all over the place.” tables while she insulted us.” “It was 4:00 p.m. We clean everything to come back at 7:00 p.m. for dinner, ”she adds.

His friend Salva Rodríguez works in a fast food chain in the Valencian capital. It is one of those businesses in which the workers take their orders at the bar, where the customers also pick up the food. “In summer I feel like I’m in the jungle. You are there, preparing each order, while dozens of people stare at you, wondering why you haven’t served them yet. That makes you hurry up, but you can’t go faster. In winter it is not so stressful”, comments this 22-year-old Valencian. He charges 5.5 euros an hour.

These two young Valencians focus their complaint on the summer clientele, mainly made up of tourists “who generally treat you horribly”. They also criticize that the salary is “poor” and the workday “exhausting”, but “at least they pay us for overtime”. Maria (not her real name) finds many clients “unbearable”. However, her main criticism is against businessmen. “I work in a beach bar in Salobreña (Granada) and I do it because nothing better has come out for me. There are times when I work 11 hours and get paid as if I had done eight. They change your shifts without warning you and treat you as if you were a throwaway object. It’s disgusting, there’s a lot of exploitation”, comments this waitress, “fed up” with her job. And that “the hard part hasn’t started yet”. Carlos (fictitious name) was offered 1,000 euros a month by a beach bar in Cádiz to work 10 hours a day every day in July and August, paying only four. “I have had to take similar offers out of necessity. It is 21st century slavery,” she adds.

Miguel Ángel González worked for many years in a beach bar. “They are the worst place to be, where they have the staff in subhuman conditions. They are what we call battle bartenders. I know many cases of people hired part-time who put in 12 hours a day. There is physical damage from working too long,” says this 50-year-old waiter from Cádiz, who works in a hotel in Chiclana de la Frontera. In addition, he is responsible for tourism of the Workers’ Commissions (CC OO) in the province of Cádiz: “I don’t want to demonize businessmen, but in most cases the conditions are terrible. Agreements are not honored. It is supposed to be a record summer of occupation and prices have skyrocketed, but I don’t think that is going to affect salaries”. Several of the interviewees acknowledge that they have suffered or have seen how the time record was manipulated, indicating a time to leave and then continuing to work more hours.

“My retirement would be better if I had contributed what I have worked for”

“The main problem”, continues González, “are the small restaurants and bars, the small and medium-sized companies with less than 50 workers, the most widespread type of business in the hospitality industry. It is where they treat the worker the worst because there is a lot of rotation and lack of protection.” “Thank God now I work in a hotel, where there is a committee and we are organized,” he adds. These waiters are a minority: in the first quarter, hotel workers in accommodation were 22% of the 1.5 million in the sector, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. Restoration workers suffer a partiality rate of 40.2%, compared to 11% of employees in hotels, according to CC OO data.

Jesús Rodríguez, a 40-year-old waiter at a hotel in Benidorm (Alicante), knows first-hand the difference between working for small or large hospitality companies: “Thanks to how much the kellys (housekeepers) now there is much greater control. I now work eight hours in two shifts of four. Before, he gave the company four hours every day; they gave you a pat on the back and something else. But this is in the big hotels, if you go to bars and restaurants there are still terrible conditions.”

His recently retired father, also Jesús Rodríguez (65 years old), worked in one of the best-known restaurants and hotels in the city. “My retirement would be much better if I had contributed all the hours that I have actually worked. I put in so many hours that my wife told me that it would be better for me to take the mattress to the restaurant. It’s annoying to think about all that you’ve missed at home from working so much,” she says. He criticizes that there are no more inspections in the hotel business and considers that on many occasions “the owner knows when they are going to come.” The precariousness of the sector, in his opinion, leads to a devaluation of the trade: “There are no longer waiters, there are carriers who carry dishes from one place to another. This happens because it doesn’t pay enough and nobody wants this job. I love it, you are the psychologist of many people, but it is very poorly paid.

With the arrival of summer, Jesús Soriano receives evidence of this poor remuneration on his mobile almost every day. He is 34 years old, works in a bar in Alzira (Valencia) and manages the Soy Camarero account, with 336,000 followers On Instagram102,000 on Facebook and 48,000 On twitter, in which he jokes about situations experienced by all waiters and in which he also denounces the precariousness of the sector. “You cannot imagine the misery that they offer to many people. I have seen offers of 500 euros a month for working 11 hours a day without taking time off. Much progress has been made in policies (increase in the minimum wage, labor reform, agreements…) but many employers skip them. If their application is not controlled, they remain a dead letter”, comments Soriano.

Lack of staff

All the waiters consulted consider that the lack of waiters is due to precariousness. “If better salaries were paid, I can tell you that there would be no shortage of waiters, as they say in the news [un informe de la empresas de recursos humanos Grupo Eurofirms estima que faltan 50.000 camareros para este verano]. Recently my partner was offered a job as a waitress at two euros an hour,” says Jan Vanvugt, a 20-year-old waiter who has worked in several tourist cities in Alicante. The Ministry of Labor encourages bars and restaurants to raise salaries if they want to find enough employees.

However, according to Vanvugt, the salary is not the decisive factor that makes this job so unattractive: “The main problem is instability, knowing what time you start but not what time you leave. Being called out of the blue to cover a shift on your one day off of the week. You don’t like working 14 hours, but if they pay you, you do it. The problem is that there are so many sites that do not pay them…”. He earns the minimum wage, about 1,000 euros a month for working as a waiter in a theme park, “but I know when I start and when the day ends, so I’m happy.”

Gabriela D’Imperio, 33, considers it “wonderful” that businessmen can’t find enough waiters. “Hopefully that way they will be forced to raise salaries, and even offer accommodation to employees. In Mallorca they ask us for up to 600 euros for a room”, concludes this hotel worker in Palma. “It’s impossible, they have to take care of us more.”

This is the first chapter of the ‘Precarious Summer’ series, which offers testimonies from workers in stressed or especially hard sectors during July and August. If you want to share your testimony you can do it in the mail [email protected].

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