They call themselves Las Kellys, an ingenious and customised abbreviation of "Las Que Limpian", in other words The Women who Clean. Hotel chambermaids started to join forces several months ago, tired of terrible conditions that include cleaning between 20 and 30 rooms a day in exchange for tiny salaries of no more than 700 euros a month. Their backs are suffering after so many years of making beds every day. For years they’ve had knee and wrist problems, bent backs and premature osteoarthritis, but above all what hurts is their self-respect when they read that you can’t complain in the tourism sector, that you have to smile at even the rudest of guests because the customer is always right. But that self pity doesn’t last long; no longer than it takes them to realise that the politicians, entrepreneurs and journalists who celebrate record figures summer after summer, ignore the reverse side of the gold coin that is tourism on the Costa del Sol. And so they protest, and they have every right to do so. Because hidden behind those record figures of the industry that turns the wheels of this province’s economy is job instability and an unequal and unfair - and perhaps soon illegal - sharing out of the pie.
The union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) is preparing to report more than 40 hotels in the province of Malaga to the employment inspectors for subcontracting their cleaning services out to firms that fail to comply with the workers’ agreement that governs the hospitality sector and guarantees a decent wage. This system results in cleaners earning half of what they should be. A recent sentence handed down by the Andalusian High Court obliged one of these multiservice subcontractors to pay a hotel chambermaid the salary indicated in the workers’ agreement. The ruling puts both these companies and the hotel groups who fail to demand that the agreement is adhered to in a predicament.
Recently some of the most important businesses in the sector publicly spoke out against the hoteliers who outsource their cleaning services to save thousands of euros by cutting salaries. They at least realise that the real defence of tourism lies in putting a stop to the degradation of those without whom the industry would collapse.