Refuse collectors and street cleaners on strike in Fuengirola

Industrial relations between Urbaser and its Fuengirola staff has been bad for some time.
Industrial relations between Urbaser and its Fuengirola staff has been bad for some time. / Iván Gelibter
  • Workers at contract-holders Urbaser will stage a partial stoppage and minimum services will be 50% on weekdays, 65% at weekends

A strike by refuse workers in Fuengirola is due to start today, Friday 10 August. Employees at Urbaser, the contract holder for refuse collection and part of the street cleaning services in the resort, are to start a partial stoppage over pay and conditions. Public arbitrators have set a minimum service obligation on the strikers, which will see half of the service operating on weekdays and 65 per cent at weekends from 10-19 August at least.

The start of industrial action comes as little surprise to residents of Fuengirola who have been following disputes between Urbaser and both the town hall and the concession holder's own employees.

Dispute with the town hall

Urbaser won the contract in a 2016 tender to run the service that includes all rubbish collection and some street cleaning. Street cleaning in some areas is still under direct council management.

However immediately problems started when a delay in starting the contract and alterations that Urbaser says were made to the conditions led to Urbaser claiming it was losing money on the deal and wanting to cancel its contract. The town hall refused and the contract still stands. Critics of Urbaser say that the firm underbid on the contract and were looking for ways to get out of it.

In the meantime, discontent among workers continued to grow, with Urbaser refusing to renegotiate terms and conditions last year, freezing pay and conditions. A strike last year was averted with a promise by the company to look at pay and conditions this year.

The failure of the company to start those negotiations with staff has led to the industrial action, say workers' representatives.

Employees are demanding improvements in holiday pay, that they say currently doesn't match the law, and fairer treatment over extra hours for longer-serving staff compared to new starters. They also want to return to a 35 hour week that was increased to 40 hours during the financial crisis.

Fuengirola town hall has said that it has been trying to arbitrate in the dispute.