Arona lifeguards – the shaming of an entire municipality.

Arona lifeguards – the shaming of an entire municipality.

Update 16 January: I just wanted to bring this post back up with the good news that one of my readers has got the Foreign Office to reinstate the warning about Arona beaches. The FO’s travel warning about the lifeguards had been removed, and Mandy contacted them to complain that it should still be listed. She has just posted below that the FO has replied to say that the warning was removed in error and that it has now been reinstated. Well done to Mandy for taking the initiative, and well done to the foreign office for reinstating the warning, and confirming to all travellers that Arona beaches are dangerous because they have no lifeguards. The travel advice page in question is HERE, and the Arona lifeguards issue is the top warning.

Update 14 January: The story is today in Diario de Avisos, with the paper reporting the council trying to employ “emergency lifeguards” while the process to award the contract for the service is still undergoing. As the paper says, Arona’s environment councillor, Antonio Sosa, has announced that the council is looking to contract two or three lifeguards for a few months. Let’s just repeat that. The council is looking to contract two or three lifeguards …

This is the council that said it had nothing to do with contracting lifeguards or beach services, that it was completely illegal to pay the existing lifeguards their back pay because the council never employed lifeguards, and that a new contractor had to be in place before the council could employ lifeguards …

So there you have it. There’s a job going working for Arona Ayuntamiento as a lifeguard. Any takers? This is farce. Except no-one’s laughing.

Original post 13 January 2014: Arona has locked the lifeguards out of their base station and changed the locks so that they cannot get access to what minimal vital equipment and supplies they have been utilising whilst providing minimum services. They are now no longer able even to comply with the legal requirement to provide those services, which means that Arona has made it impossible for them to maintain their right to outstanding wages.

Above are a couple of photos: the first is of the locks being changed, and the second is of the policía local accompanying the locksmisths, which confirms the lifeguards’ assertion that this was a council operation. I do not wish misfortune on anyone but I hope that if anyone drowns in Arona they will take the strongest legal action against the council. Criminal neglicence might do it …

 

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Update 28 October 2013:  The lifeguards have issued the following press release – click on the thumbnail above to see it in full size in the original Spanish. Point number 5 is the new, and to my mind, most stunning, information:

1. The squad of Arona lifeguards has received, as of 24 October, confirmation of their social security deregistration by the social security authorities (TGSS), as a result of reports by the TGSS itself that Sport&Salvament S.L.U. has not traded since 14 June 2013. Accordingly, the TGSS has acted on its own account so that the business’ social security debt should not increase.

2. We have been on indefinite strike since 9 November due to our salaries remaining unpaid by the business and/or the Ayuntamiento of Arona,  complying with the legal requirement to provide 50% minimum services in Playa de las Vistas, Los Cristianos and El Camisón.

3.  The social security deregistration violates a constitutional right, the right to strike, given that it offers protection in  a case of unconstitutional dismissal. We will therefore be taking it up with the Government’s mediation and arbitration service (SEMAC) as well as initiating legal proceedings in the Courts.

4. This situation has caused great uncertainty among the lifeguards. So many of our rights have been violated that what has  happened on these beaches is unprecedented. We remain unpaid, have not been laid off, have been disrespected, but still required to provide lifeguard services.

5. The local police, who have been confirming since 1 August that we are indeed providing the required minimal services, have told us this weekend that we are to be dismissed by municipal order which they will probably deliver some time this week.

6. We have insisted, fruitlessly, to the environment councillor, Antonio Sosa, on the need to resolve this confict for the security of Arona’s coastline, to which end we have submitted to required arbitration, but it  has been deemed “anti-regulation” to arbitrate a conflict once legal action has already been undertaken. We have replied that 2013’s outstanding wages are not the subject of such action, and that they could be ring-fenced if the council agreed to arbitration.

7. Meanwhile, we continue providing lifeguard services to the Arona coastline. We consider that the administrations’ failures in their own respects  do not give us the right to fail in our own duty, with enough reputations already in the gutter.

Update 22 October: The lifeguards are reporting that they have been informed by text message to their phones from the Social Security authorities that their social security contributions have been deregistered. To add insult to injury, the message advises them that the “baja” (deregistration) dates from 14 June. It seems that this resulted from an inspection made social security officers which clarified that the original company employing the lifeguards had gone out of business. Even Arona Ayuntamiento seems not to have known about the deregistration. Apart from the appalling lack of communication between these bodies, the practical result is that Arona now officially has no Surveillance and Rescue Service on any beach. Where the lifeguards go from here I don’t know, but whether they can contemplate continuing to work in the hope of back wages when they have essentially been “disemployed”, is anyone’s guess.

I’ve split the previous posts to make my front page less unwieldy. The full previous posts are HERE.

Update 23 August: Just a reminder of this march, which is taking place on Sunday, starting at 5pm from Playa de los Cristianos. I’m sure the lifeguards will appreciate the support, whether as marchers, or as applause lining the route.

Update 12 August: It’s a year now. A year without wages, and a year in which Arona has lost whatever shred of reputation it might still have had for good governance – and for decency, for that matter. And a year in which, now, Britain’s own Foreign Office is advising people that Arona is a dangerous location because of the state of its beaches.

In honour of the anniversary, the lifeguards have posted a call on their Facebook page HERE for support for a protest march to mark the event on 25 August. They say they would very much appreciate a physical show of support in terms of numbers on the march to match the support they have clearly had from the public over the last year.  If the turnout is anything like that suggested by the response on Facebook, it will be another day of shame for the Ayuntamiento.

The march will depart from Playa de los Cristianos a week on Sunday at 5pm, go via Playa de Las Vistas and end in Playa del Camisón. Meanwhile, Arona Ayuntamiento asks “for time” to sort the problem out, and says “it’s working” on it … and waiting for a “confirmed verdict” from the Courts.

Update 3 August: And now the FO advice has been picked up by the Canarian Press. Diario de Avisos HERE has given a half page today to report on it. On the paper version (you can’t see in the online version), there’s also a big red “down” arrow to a photo of Mayor Niño for his failure to resolve the matter. He had his knuckles rapped yesterday by the Cabildo for the bad publicity he is creating. They are said to be “very annoyed at the coverage”. In Arona’s case, I can think of several adjectives, but “annoyed” isn’t top of the list. “Ashamed” might be, or “humiliated”, or “disgraced” …

Update 2 August: The British Government has now updated its travel advice to include the situation on Arona beaches. It’s the top alert on the Foreign Office’s advice page for Spain (see HERE), above even pickpocketing and balconing. What a shameful situation. How sad that shame seems to be the last thing that can be felt in Arona.

Update 12 June: All the media coverage so far over the past ten months has been Canarian. Now, though, it’s national. The video below is of a slot this morning on TVE1, the equivalent of the UK’s BBC1, and draws attention apart from anything else to Arona’s loss of three blue flags. It ends with the presenter saying that they’d tried – several times – to get someone from Arona Ayuntamiento on the programme … but that there didn’t seem to be anyone available … . Now maybe the national shame will have some effect.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYlvcV0uvFw&feature=youtube_gdata_player[/youtube]

Update 8 June: The council has taken down all the protest banners and notices overnight. Most people might think it would be better to be more concerned about sending people to replace supplies of what was stolen, or preparing a defence for the Caso Arona … where the other day some 20-odd senior Arona Ayuntamiento officials had their corruption case trials confirmed and their appeals rejected.

With the leading Arona political class in the dock for corruption, and with the municipality’s beaches having neither blue flags nor lifeguards any more, and with the one remaining safe beach having had all its supplies stolen … the council thinks the most important thing is removing placards. And of course, it’s a violation of the constitutional right to peaceful protest. A violation of the rights of people? In Arona? Surely not …

As the lifeguards say, if you take down two placards, we’ll put up four.

Update 5 June: Playa de las Vistas was the only beach in Arona with lifeguard service, but now after the burglary the other day they have no medical supplies, no walkie-talkies, no walkie-talkie control central, no defibrilators, no rescue tubes … . A black flag is now flying.

Update 3 June: The lifeguards are still without their money, and today have arrived at work to find that the Las Vistas station has been burgled overnight. Seven walkie-talkies have been taken along with their control central, 2 defibrilators have gone, 10 rescue tubes …

Update 2 May: It was Veronica’s own case that was judged on Tuesday, and that judgment came from the  Juzgado de lo Social #5 itself in Santa Cruz. The Court found that Arona Ayuntamiento is indeed responsible for her salary, and as I said on 30 April, this will almost inevitably apply as well to all her colleagues when their cases come before the Court. The judgment relates to the three months of salary outstanding before the concessionary went out of business, and so there are still six months’ wages to be made good, but for the moment, the council has been sentenced to cough up €2,565.23 for Veronica. And that will be x17, thank you. Oh dear, Arona …

Update 30 April: It looks like very good news for the lifeguards today. I am still to get full details, but can say for the moment that they have won a judgment on one of the lawsuits they had lodged. This was filed only on the 16th, so the judgment has been very rapid. It applies only to one of the 18 lifeguards, but it is understood that it refers “to the same case” as the others, whose lawsuits are yet to be heard. More as soon as I have it.

Update 28 April: The lifeguards have released the following request: I’ve just translated it, otherwise it’s verbatim.

Hello resident, neighbour or visitor of Arona.This is a message in protest and as a request for help and cooperation.

Please call 010, Arona Council’s attention line, and make a complaint: other numbers are 922 761 600 or, from abroad, 0034 922 761 600. The municipal lifeguard service is responsible for security, assistance and lifesaving along the Arona coastline from Playa Troya to Costa del Silencio: Playa Honda, Punta del Cabezo, Playa Camisón, Playa Las Vistas, Los Cristianos Beach, Tarajales Beach, Palm Mar, Las Galletas … to Montaña Amarilla in Costa del Silencio.

The lifeguards in this service have not been paid for 9 months, and have been working to rule providing a minimum service for nearly 6 months. For one month now, they have been providing lifeguard cover only in Playa de las Vistas, and even that without any emergency vehicles or equipment. In this time, they have resuscitated nine people, six during the period of the strike, and two just in this month of April. They have reported the situation to all the relevant public organizations, inspectors, security and emergency, and the Department of Employment, including Arona Ayuntamiento itself, the last which is the only one responsible for this situation. Still there is no solution. There are 18 people working just so that they don’t lose their jobs and their employment rights even though they haven’t been paid for nine months.

WE ASK FOR YOUR HELP. PLEASE! CALL OR GO TO THE CITIZEN ATTENTION OFFICE (SAC) OR LOCAL POLICE STATION WITHIN ARONA AND MAKE A DENUNCIA.

RESCUE THE ARONA RESCUERS!

YOU OR A FAMILY MEMBER MIGHT NEED THEM!

MANY OF THEM HAVE NOW BEEN LIVING FOR 5 MONTHS ON DONATIONS FROM TOURISTS. 8 HOURS A DAY ON THE LAS VISTAS PROMENADE. AND THE POLICE ALLOW IT! It seems to be due to lack of denucias too.

This is prohibited by Arona bylaws!

Moreover, PLEASE ALSO DENOUNCE ARONA’S EVACUATION AND EMERGENCY PLAN – IT IS NOW A LONG TIME SINCE IT WAS UPDATED!

We do not want to have to grieve over any tragedies.

Please pass this on. Call 010 or go to the local police within Arona and make a complaint. If outside Arona, call 922 761 600. If outside Spain, call 0034 922 761 600.

Make a denuncia. Help us. Help yourselves!

Thank you.

Update 18 April: Just a reminder given that there’s a calima heatwave coming today, and lasting over the weekend, that there is no lifeguard provision on any Arona beaches apart from the minimum service provision on Playa de las Vistas.

Update 14 April: Well done Balú and Live Arico-PAWS! As I posted on 2 April, Marjan from Balú bar was arranging for customers to drop off food at the bar to be handed over to the lifeguards, and to Sebastian the Dog. The drop off was yesterday … and the above photo shows the results. Well done to everyone concerned.

Update 12 April:  Mystery today surrounds an article in El Día quoting the concejal de Medio Ambiente, Antonio Sosa, as saying that Arona Ayuntamiento will assume responsibility for lifeguard provision on the municipality’s beaches in the interim period until a new contractor is appointed. Sr Sosa also said, it seems, that he is seeking a formula to pay the lifeguards outstanding arrears. The Ayuntamiento, it appears, is simultaneously working towards getting the lifeguards their money, and appointing a new company to take over the whole socorrista service in Arona.

We can only hope that this is, in fact, true, and, if true, that it will bear fruit in the very near future. It seems a shame, however, that no-one thought to keep the lifeguards informed, because Veronica says that she had no knowledge of this at all, and that she was surprised to read it in the paper. The lifeguards’ position is that since the Ayuntamiento emphatically dismissed this option at the last mediation meeting, they are unconvinced by the article, not least because the council has shown by its very actions that they are not prepared to “assume responsibility”. Veronica herself sums the situation up in three points:

1.-Antonio Sosa has been taking the mickey since last summer, and today’s news is nothing more than one more such lie.

2.-The council’s lack of interest in meeting the lifeguards, or even offering basic provisions, shows a lack of respect, and moreover to come up with such a solution – which they could have come up with a year and a half ago  – and then only in the press, shames the council.

3. – Given the objections of the technical, legal and administrative departments of Arona Ayuntamiento we are now suspicious that they have now supposedly come up with this solution. We hope the report is correct, and that we are paid right now what is owing, and that they put our vehicles and supplies in order. We hope that they don’t forget about us and get rid of us – as was implied at the last meeting by the suggestion that the local police might take over the service.

Meanwhile, Sr Sosa says the blue flag and disability awards are the welcome result of Arona’s attempts at a provision of excellence, and that the acquisition of them was never a priority in and of itself. One can’t help but wonder whether he is preparing the ground for the loss of these prestigious recognitions.

Update 5 April: In all dark stories there are glimmers of light, and this is no exception. Through the kindness of Live-Arico-PAWS-Tenerife, Veronica’s dog Sebastian has been able to go to the vet to have his vaccinations – his medical booklet is now all up to date. Let’s hope the same can soon be said for the lifeguards’ situation! Above is a gorgeous photo of Sebastian and Veronica.

Update 4 April: TV Canarias will have another report on the lifeguards tomorrow morning live on TV, on the Buenos Días Canarias programme from 8.30am.

Update 2 April: The fourth mediation meeting took place this morning and I wish I could post something positive but I cannot. Despite Trabajo criticising the lack of coordination in the municipality, and putting various options on the table, the local authority dismissed them all as not viable.  Both Trabajo and municipality are to make further submissions within ten days … and meanwhile the lifeguards are left high and dry. In a further sinister turn, it seems that Arona Policía Local are to report on whether the municipal police can take over the service, those of them with lifesaving qualifications, of course. Where that would leave the lifeguards does not take much imagination. It doesn’t take too much imagination, either, to wonder where that leaves the public who use the beaches and whose lives are at risk in the sea.

Meanwhile, Marjan from Balú Bar-restaurant in San Telmo, Los Cristianos, is arranging for customers to drop off food at the bar to be handed over to the lifeguards, and to Sebastian the Dog, on Saturday 13 April. Marjan says that after the hand over, the lifeguards and their families are invited to a free meal and drinks at Balú Bar. There is some human kindness after all, even if it’s apparently not to be found in the Ayuntamiento.

Update 1 April: If all goes well, I will be on Radio Sur Adeje (click HERE to listen online) in the English slot between 1 and 1.30 talking to Clio O’Flynn about the lifeguards situation.

Update 31 March: Please note that from today, there is no lifeguard cover in any Arona beach apart from Playa de las Vistas. Please take extreme care if you are using the beaches anywhere from Costa del Silencio to Playa Troya in Playa de las Américas. There is no safety provision in these beaches now.

Update 30 March: The lifeguards have tonight issued the following statement:

The Arona Rescue and Lifeguard Service, with a team of 18, has decided by a majority to limit the service and the strike to Playa de las Vistas, where the lifeguard base is located.

From tomorrow, there will be no lifeguard cover at El Camisón or Los Cristianos beaches, in addition to there being no vehicles and so no roaming patrols between Costa del Silencio and Playa Troya. There will also be no disabled bathroom facilities either.

Please present any complaints by phone to Arona Ayuntamiento on 010, or in person at any of the Atención al Ciudadano “SAC” offices. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience, but after eight months of official abandonment, and 18 lifeguards working without pay since July 2012, we hope you will appreciate our position, and thank you in advance for your understanding.

Update 28 March: Let’s spare a thought this Easter for the Arona lifeguards, now 8 months into a forced work-to-rule for no pay whatsoever, and with no apparent solution in sight. The above picture shows how beautiful the coastline is, but it is also dangerous for the 10,000 or so visitors who are spending the Easter weekend there. With virtually no equipment, nor vehicles, and seemingly abandoned by their true employers (however much the Council might deny the responsibility), these lifesavers are still there. Show them some support if you can, and spare them a thought. If there’s anything to the Easter message it is that of sacrifice and salvation. Who does more, these days, and in Arona especially, to sacrifice and save than the lifeguards themselves. Without getting all religious, who is more entitled right now to say “my god why have you forsaken me”.

18 March: Do have a look at the political blog Blancahari (click the name) … even if it needs to be run through Google translate the gist will be there. Seven months of non-payments; official lies; over 5,000 signatures on a petition; complaints to the Town hall; critical reports in the local, national and foreign media; an alert for exposed pipes in Las Vistas beach; department of employment mediation itself saying the Ayuntamiento should pay the lifeguards; the apparent disappearance of Arona’s blue flags … ! Shame appears to be the only weapon left. Please use it and spread the word of what Arona is doing to its own best assets – best touristic and human assets …

Update 7 March: The lifeguards have had a second meeting with the Dept of Employment, together with union representatives and Arona environment councillor, Antonio Sosa. The regional government has ruled that it will intervene in the dispute, and a solution has been proposed, namely that the Ayuntamiento should appoint a contractor without the new business assuming existing debts (i.e. the embargo of some €600,000) and for the Ayuntamiento itself to settle the seven months of outstanding wages plus social security contributions for the lifeguards. It should be clear by Monday how the Ayuntamiento reacts to this.

Update 27 February: In the mediation meeting convened by the DG de Trabajo, the company did not attend, hardly surprising since it has not been involved in the matter for a considerable time, but the council was represented … by an Environment technician. In the chair, and mediating, were the Directora Grl.de Trabajo and the Jefe Grl. de Inspección. The Government representatives appeared surprised by the council’s claim that their own legal advice was that they could do nothing to help the lifeguards, and gave the council five days to find a solution before the Government itself intervenes.

While the council has been given five days, however, a new contract has been awarded to yet another business to run the lifeguard service. The would-be contractor, Rescatador, has a fortnight to decide if it is to accept the poisoned chalice. The Ayuntamient’s decision was taken in the council meeting yesterday morning, which saw accusations flying back and forth between governing party and opposition, with the governing faction claiming the opposition was seeking to damage Arona’s reputation, and the opposition claiming that the governing faction were corrupt. The governing faction’s response, given by Environment councillor and effectively second-in-command in Arona, Antonio Sosa, was, in a nutshell “prove it”.

Update 26 February: As I posted below, the lifeguards, along with others, were invited to a mediation meeting with the Government this morning. Now, Arona’s full council meetings are always held on a Thursday, and the lifeguards were planning a protest during this week’s meeting. Lo and behold, according to activist website BlancaHari, the mayor has gone “on holiday”, and the council meeting was shifted ….. to this morning at 8.30, the very time the lifeguards were to be in Santa Cruz. As evident in the above photo of this morning’s council meeting, however, Arona’s attempt to avoid a protest at their meeting failed badly: the photo shows lifeguards, journalists, radio and TV all attending.

Update 4pm: Veronica has been strongly encouraged by many British visitors and residents to set up a paypal account for donations for the lifeguard cause. She has now done so, and the link is HERE. I would just like to stress that this is not something she has taken an initiative on, but is reacting to many suggestions and requests from those who wish to help. She says that all monies will go towards their cause.

Update 20 February: As I posted previously, Veronica took it upon herself to contact the Dept of Employment, not least because the lifeguards were being required to provide a minimum service even when there was no apparent desire to negotiate on the part of Arona Ayuntamiento – it is the assumption of such goodwill that underpins the requirement for minimum services, with the idea that an agreement will be reached quickly. The Dirección Grl.de Trabajo replied to Veronica in some surprise, because the Ayuntamiento had seemingly not once brought the dispute to their attention.

Veronica was requested to go to Santa Cruz yesterday to see Dept of Employment officials, and she says that she got a very good feeling from the meeting, not least the feeling that there was actually someone in authority who had an interest in the case and in offering a bit of protection.  The Dept has said that it wishes to mediate between the lifeguards and Arona Ayuntamiento, and above is a copy of the “invitation” to a mediation meeting set for next Tuesday. This particular photo is of the letter to Sport & Salvament, but the Ayuntamiento and lifeguards are also called to attend. As Veronica says, only time will tell whether they will do so, but they will not do their cause any good if they boycott a meeting called by the national Government’s own Department of Employment. Some progress has been made, and it is Veronica herself who has made it.

socorristas (300 x 400)

Update 18 February: Veronica has posted today some photos on her FB account, the above are a couple – the first of the lifeguard base office, and the second of a cupboard empty of essential medical supplies. As Veronica says, the oxygen equipment is not inspected, and they are almost out of oxygen itself. The “office” has no telephone, no fax – not even fire extinguishers, which I understood were a legal requirement. In short, they have been provided with nothing that any functioning office should have.

Are these lifeguards supposed to use their own mobiles for emergency calls? Their own mobiles when they’re not even being paid? And the quad supplied for rapid emergency displacement has been left for months without insurance, without an MOT, even without petrol!  These are the conditions in which they are expected to work, conditions which would appall any employee … let alone those who aren’t even being paid  …..

Canarias7 recently ran an article (HERE) about Arona’s attempt to sell itself at a very recent tourism fair (Feria Internacional de Turismo – Fitur). As the paper says, the council stressed its climate, its hotels, and above all, the excellence of its beaches. The article continues that nobody said a word, however, about the fact that these beaches are now manned by unpaid forced labour with a minimum safety provision.

Tourism is Tenerife’s, and of course Arona’s, main economic motor. Apart from the shamefulness of the situation, it is just absolutely stupid to allow things to come to this pass. Even if the council cares nothing for its own reputation, surely it is not determined to ruin that of its main asset!

 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXjEvWkePMs[/youtube]

Update 17 February: Above is a recent news report from antena3canarias on the lifeguards which also shows how neglected the Arona base is, and in particular how empty the medical cabinet is. Are these lifeguards also expected to supply first aid equipment? Does Arona Ayuntamiento actually accept any responsibility for anything? For shame.

Update 15 February 9pm: Veronica is indomitable. She is back at the base, protesting once again. She is no longer on hunger strike, after yesterday this isn’t possible, but she is back to her protest, along with her fellow unpaid lifeguards, providing minimum services for a council that requires them to work but denies any employer relationship with them!

Update 15 February: Veronica collapsed yesterday after her interview on Canarian television. She was taken to hospital suffering a migraine and low blood pressure. The Ayuntamiento had just sent someone to check that minimum services were being provided but it seems that is all the support they can offer this woman, and her fellow strikers, amidst further reports of intimidating visits by Policía Local sent by the Ayuntamiento. This morning Veronica has said that although she is still feeling the after effects of the migraine and the antibiotics she was given, she is stable, and will stay at home today. She intends, however, to return to the base to protest.

Update 13 February: Veronica will be on TV Canaria’s “Good morning Canaries” tomorrow morning at 8am. This is live TV seen throughout the Canaries. Go along if you can to Camping SOS Socorristas ARONA, the lifeguard protest base. She would welcome your support.

Update 12 February: The following is a Press Release in the form of an open letter to the public and to Arona Ayuntamiento from Verónica Rodríguez Rodríguez, the Las Vistas lifeguard who is on hunger strike, She has issued it in response to the council’s statement that I posted yesterday. (The press release was evidently in Spanish – this is my translation. To download the original in Spanish click HERE).

On 12 February, the newspaper El Dia published a statement from Arona Ayuntamiento as a response to the “conflict”. We (or at least I) were surprised because for six months of what they call “conflict” they have not previously issued any information to the public about the situation and the minimum services that have been provided in Arona beaches since 9 November 2011.

In the face of such a statement full of nonsense and half truths, I would like to clarify that:

The contract awarded by Arona Ayuntamiento in 2009 to Sport & Salvament SLU expired in November 2011 because the Ayuntamiento “forgot” to extend it. Even so, the local authority continued paying invoices until August 2012, the point at which July-August’s bill was withheld because of an embargo imposed by the social security and tax authorities. This means that the Ayuntamiento paid these authorities instead of the business. It seems that this situation surprised them, because they then decided to stop so as not to take on Sport & Salvament SLU’s embargoes.

In July 2012, the employees stopped receiving their salaries.

In August 2012, the contract was put out to tender, a competition won by Eulen SL, which renounced the award a month later, in November, because of the “existence of lawsuits that it would have to assume”, and because this would involve great cost. The contract was next awarded to Pro-Activa, which itself renounced the contract on 1 February 2013 for the same reasons.

Throughout all this time, the employees of the three Arona beaches, with blue flags – and Las Vistas also with AENOR flag for Universal Accessibility – have never stopped providing the service, always believing, until 15 days ago, in the  “Ayuntamiento’s attempts to solve the problem” (as the council says).

In view of the strike call, the Council demanded “minimum services” given that this is an “essential public service”. The Department of Employment confirmed this, and so we were “obliged” to provide the service every day without receiving anything in return. They have never bothered even to offer us food and water.

Over the last six months we have had no contact whatsoever with the company Sport & Salvament, and the Ayuntamiento, knowing that there was no contract with the company, that it had solvency problems, and that there have been notifications on several occasions from the lifeguard base that they were working in precarious conditions, have not bothered either to replace first aid materials, to clean public facilities, nor to check vehicles whose papers are now months out of date and which cannot make the appropriate patrols since there’s no fuel, let alone transfers to the beaches of Los Cristianos and El Camisón, and cover for the half hour breaks of the lifeguards who are providing minimum services there.

I am “surprised” that for six months Arona Ayuntamiento has not “informed the public” and that they do so now as a result of reports in the press and discussion as a major topic in online social networks, British forums, etc., and that it has not been concerned with the sanitary conditions of a service to the public service that provides in its turn a socio-sanitary and public security service. And as “we now” reveal the truth, they put out a statement where they accuse us of little less than vandalism. This is untrue, and a serious accusation without proof which is punishable in law. Faced with the charge that “we have destroyed Public Facilities” we say this is not true, and that all we have are flags, sheets, and cardboard, and a campaign stands. I want to make clear that I (Veronica Rodriguez) have been camping at the lifeguard base since January 29, am on hunger strike, and that I woke up on Sunday to find slogans had been posted. The maintenance staff were deleting “only part” of them, and so I asked why they were not clearing them all. They replied that these were their orders. Then the police arrived to take pictures and that same night the council issued its statement. It seems particularly “strange” to me.

To Arona Ayuntamiento, I say:

Break the deadlock now of this situation that only you have caused, and which has already been delayed (now six and a half months). If the service had been rescued in September 2012, after the embargo on Sport & Salvament, the situation would not be so tense now. We have complied with your demands for  minimum services, even without the means to come to work: many without car insurance, without fuel, living on borrowed money, credit, not even having food to eat, and with “some colleagues” who are demonstrating peacefully for donations given by sympathetic beach users and tourists. This now violates our constitutional, employment and “human” rights.

I also say that the current situation (after three months of strike without a solution) has been reported to the Department of Employment for them to “reconsider the provision of minimum services”. As we understand it, it is ridiculous and somewhat inhuman to demand employees go to work without being paid for six months” and in the deplorable sanitary conditions in which the service finds itself.

In response to your statement I also say that: of the “two people” they mention who are on hunger strike, Marco Luccini passed out on Thursday, his 5th day without eating; he was taken away by ambulance and admitted to hospital for several hours. Obviously at that point he had to abandon the hunger strike. This is further proof that the Ayuntamiento have not been to the lifeguard base not have any idea of how things really are. The employee who remains on hunger strike, now for 15 days, and who is sleeping at the lifeguard base, is me.

To “apologize to users and tourists” is well and good, but you have failed in refusing to accept responsibility for the situation of the 18 lifeguards who , without being paid for six months, continue to supply the service.

I hope that these clarifications will add to the statement issued by Arona Environment Department.

Yours faithfully
Verónica Rodríguez Rodríguez.
At Playa de Las Vistas, Arona, 12 February 2013

Update 11 February: Arona Ayuntamiento has said that it would be “illegal” to pay the outstanding salaries to the lifeguards because there is no contract between them and the council. The local authority apologised to residents and beach users for any inconvenience caused by the dispute, and said that Arona has always been noted for the excellence of its services, confirmed by the numerous distinctions bestowed on its beaches.

The council claimed that it understood the lifeguards’ motives but could not agree with the way in which they were protesting, and stressed that since the award of the contract to a new business was in process, it was hoped that the situation would get back to normal as quickly as possible. Fine words, so perhaps the Ayuntamiento will now yield to the Courts’ third demand, on pain of being found in contempt of Court, for it to release information on how much it owes the contractor who did employ the lifguards, and to make good the payments owing. That, surely, won’t be illegal.

Update 9 February: There is now a petition to sign urging Arona council to get these lifeguards paid. It is HERE. It’s only in Spanish, I’m afraid, but all that’s needed is for you to enter your first name, then your surname, then your email address. There is room for a comment but that’s optional. Then click to sign.

Update 10am: The papers today are covering the story of one of the hunger strikers, Verónica Rodríguez, who is staging her hunger strike in a tent at her place of work on Playa de las Vistas in Los Cristianos. Why should I not live in a tent, she says? I’ve already lost everything and the bank is about to repossess my apartment and evict me anyway because my family are no longer able to help me keep up the mortgage payments. Given that she has a job, she would not be one of the tiny minority entitled to kind treatment by banks: that this job is not bringing in any wages would not be considered “relevant”. The lifeguards’ situation has been called “unsustainable”. It’s not the only situation that could be so described.

Original post 31 January 2013: An argument, indeed an outrage, that has been rumbling on for six months has now culminated in some 20 Arona lifeguards going on hunger strike. The guards have not been paid wages for all that time, and unions say they deplore the Ayuntamiento’s “passivity” in effectively ignoring the workers’ plight. The council, for its part, says that the problem is that the lifeguards are employed, and must be paid, by a private company contracted by the municipality, and that this company is in financial difficulties.

Some might ask whether or not this company is now surely in breach of its contractual obligations to the Ayuntamiento, since it can hardly be expected that such contracts allow for employees’ wages not to be paid. As such, some might also ask why the council hasn’t annulled the contract and given it to another business which will pay its staff. Such tales of workers going months without pay are not uncommon here, indeed they underpin the frequent rubbish strikes that plague the south of Tenerife, but six months without money and workers needing to go on hunger strike in desperation brings shame on Tenerife.

17 Comments

  1. I am being very cynical here because I think it’s a disgrace that the lifeguards haven’t been paid. If they became on of the many “Sand Sculptors” dotted along Las Vistas beach they would probably get some money.

  2. Author

    and probably get fined for their trouble … that’s been happening to the “real” sand sculptors according to the press. I’ve never known a system where you can’t do right for doing wrong!

  3. That is a terrible situation. Who can we complain to about this please. It should be possible to complain to an authority in Tenerife by email. This would no doubt affect the tourist trade if it was published in UK.

  4. Author

    Well you could complain to Arona Ayuntamiento, which is the relevant authority, but their response is already quite clear …

  5. The beach no longer meets criteria 4 of thier Blue Flag status so perhaps that should be removed.. Then I wonder what Arona Ayuntamiento thoughts would be if that happened.

  6. Janet, apart from on the beaches, is anyone collecting money for the lifeguards? When we were out in December we donated every time we saw them collecting and my parents had been doing the same whilst staying in November. Back at home now and shocked that this situation has been allowed to continue, bureaucracy gone totally mad. Officials seem to forget that we are talking about human beings here. It’s a disgrace for Tenerife. Has anyone organised an online money/food collections maybe or similar where we could send donations from the UK? The lifeguards to a fantastic job of keeping people safe in the water.

  7. Author

    Yes, the petition has a part of it for donation, so if you follow the link above for that, you should be able to donate money and know, just as importantly, that it goes straight where it needs to go.

  8. I was out there between 5-12 Feb and these people where still providing a good level of service, including looking after wheelchair bound people, they are not anoly there to help save lives but to enhance lives for the wheelchair bound, by taking them to the sea and bringing them back.
    They also said that in six years they have not had a death at the beach.
    Perhaps this is what is needed, hate to say this, but then it will highlite what has been going on and sort this out once and for all.

    These guys and girls do an amazing job and should not be treated like this.

  9. Hello. I’m Verónica Rodríguez. Sorry but my english is not very for loocking 🙂

    Quiero agradecer el apoyo e interés por mí. Llevo 20 dias mañana viviendo en la Base…en mi trabajo, y tuve que ponerme en huelga de hambre y venir aquí para, lamentablemente, llamar la atención de los medios de comunicación. Y también llegar a otras partes, a vosotros. Esto es muy inhumano e injusto.Supongo que ya conocéis la historia.Quiero agradeceros toda la atenciòn y empatía y a la persona que me traduce y comparte para ustedes las noticias. Un fuerte y sincero abrazo.
    *Paz&Amor*

    “V”

    Disculpen… Hasta hoy no he podido escribiros.

  10. Author

    for those who don’t speak Spanish, Veronica says / a los que no hablan Español, Verónica dice …

    I would like to say thank you for the support and interest. It’s 20 days tomorrow that I’ve been living at the lifeguard station … at my work, and I had to go on hunger strike and come here, regrettably, in order to get the media’s attention. And also to reach elsewhere, to all of you. This is really inhumane and unjust. I suppose that you know the story by now. I would like to say thank you for taking notice and for the fellow felling you’ve shown, and to Janet for translating my press release and sharing it with you. With very best wishes, Peace&Love, V. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to write before today.

  11. This is outrageous. I know that lifeguard stations are very important to public beaches and swimming pools but they should have the right equipment and supplies for the lifeguard to do their jobs properly. Aside from that, they should be paid of what is due for their services. These lifeguards are risking their lives to save others. They should be treated with utmost respect because they deserve it.

  12. Janet, cumplimos 7 meses ya!! :/

  13. Author

    ay diós, que vergüenza … esperamos que el gobierno podria hacer algo en unos días! Ojalá !!

  14. dear janet
    thanks for the translation. i’m swiss and i stay here in los cristianos during the wintermonth, because i have multiple scleroses and the warm weather is good and it is easy here because it is acsebel for weehlchairs. i’m often at the base with veronica and i try to help the socorristas. i send your link to my friends from amnesty switzerland
    thans thans thanks susanne

  15. Author

    Ah susanne, it’s thanks that are due to you! Let’s hope Amnesty are interested in this issue! Thank you!

  16. GRACIAS!! ¡¡MILLÓN DE GRACIAS!!

  17. Very disturbing news. Poor lifeguards. They were only trying to do their jobs the best they could but they are not getting paid for their efforts. I just think this is so unfair considering that they risk their lives everyday for people they don’t even know but they are not being recognized for it.

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