Hotel maids aim to clean up pay rules
Spain is enjoying a surge in visitors, but hotel maids are not reaping the rewards and are rebelling against their low salaries, which can be as little as 2 euros to clean a room.
The country, which welcomed over 68 million foreign tourists last year — its third consecutive year of record numbers — employs around 100,000 hotel maids, according to union estimates.
Over the past two years more and more maids have been challenging their contracts in courts and coming out in the press with tales of exploitation in the world’s third most-visited country.
Pepita Garcia Lupianez, who has worked for 40 years in the seaside resort of Torre- molinos on the Costa del Sol, is one of the leaders of the fight despite enjoying better conditions than most.
She had a full-time contract and earns 1,300 euros ($1,400) per month, far above the minimum wage of 764.40 euros.
“I am almost ashamed when I meet with colleagues employed by subcontractors who have contracts of four to six hours and work in reality eight or 10 hours,” said Lupianez, 59, a representative with Spain’s biggest union, Comisiones Obreras.
“Their employers tells them: ‘ Until you have finished, you can’t leave!’ ”.
Lupianez took part in a protest in the southern city of Malaga on Thursday against a reform of Spain’s labor code in 2012 which maids say has led to lower salaries.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government defends its reform of the code, crediting it with a drop in Spain’s jobless rate to below 20 percent from a record high 27 percent in 2013.
Spain’s hotel and retail sector accounted for nearly half of all jobs created this year, according to a study, but critics say most of the new jobs are temporary.
Spanish hotel maid Pepita Garcia Lupianez holds union flags as she takes part in a protest.