Friday, 27 April 2012

How is anyone supposed to live without a salary for nine months?

Inmaculada Martínez
LA LÍNEA This is Europe, albeit at the 'Southern (i.e. poorer) end'. It's not the Third World, or even the Second one, whichever that may be. A piece in today's Europa Sur is worth reading even if it goes into the 'What are you complaining about?' file. "Unfortunately, I work at the town hall," says Inmaculada Martínez. She is a full time cleaner, a mother of three and grandmother to one. She is separated from her husband and is the only source of income in the family. Her home is rented. Her salary does not get up to €1,000 per month and she has worked at the town hall for 14 years. She is officially off sick for depression, which would surprise nobody. She has absolutely no income. "I just can't cope any more," she says. "I have nothing to put on the table today," she adds as she shows a large empty pot, which the photographer captures in a click.>>>"I get something from Cáritas (the Catholic Church charity) sometimes but today, the fridge is empty and I have nobody to help me. I had to pay the electricity bill today, so I had to borrow the money or we'd be cut off," Inma said as the tears began to flow. She said that she had gone to the Town Hall to ask for €50 from the nine months back pay she is owed, "But they said no, there wasn't any money. I ended up asking just for €10, and no again. I don't know what to do.">>>
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The cleaner did admit that the town hall had given her €200 to buy medicines for her granddaughter, but that is the only time she has ever been given any. She has been refused every other time.

"My daughter has been unable to use her prosthesis for four months because I don't have the money to buy her new shoes; the old ones are completely worn out. She's only 14 and paralysed on her left side," adds Inmaculada.

She herself is under medical treatment because, she says, of anxiety and depression owing to her non-remuneration, according to a medical certificate she showed the reporter.

'We are doing all we can'
Mayor Gemma Araujo confirms that this employee was given money for medication yesterday, adding that the Ayuntamiento had offered to get them for nothing. "Every workers comes in with a different problem, but unfortunately there is not enough for everyone. We would only be able to give €50 to 200 employees. We do what we can, and make a priority of power cut-offs. The water bills are not being paid but we've spoken to Aqualia (the local water company) so they don't emit them," says Araujo.

How did La Línea get into this mess? Good question with a simple answer.

The party elected last year (PSOE) inherited a dismal mess left by its predecessors (PP), whose mayor was the infamous Alejandro Sánchez (remember the toll for Gibraltar traffic?). The excesses of spending at the town hall in the Sánchez heydays brought the town to its heels - and Sánchez was saved by the local elections.

Now in opposition, Sánchez insists he could do a better job as Mayor than Gemma Araujo. Naturally, there is a large dose of politics in the issue.

Politics at their very worst
When the PP was in power in La Línea, the PSOE was in charge at the district, provincial, and regional levels - which situation Sánchez blamed for the disastrous finances of his era. Now it is precisely the opposite: PP are in charge at the district and provincial levels (not yet the regional, Junta) and PSOE is in power in La Línea - which Araujo blames for the present mess.

To cut a very long and silly story short, this is a 'game' between politicians and their parties, none of whom are short of a single moment's salary or expense on the public coffers - while whole families starve.

They should be ashamed - but are unlikely to be.

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