Carlos Rosique, Miguel Martín Alonso and Raquel Fernández
Elche/Almería/Camariñas (A Coruña) (EFE) packaging machines and also netting machines.
EFE has spoken with some of these women, who review a working life that has passed with their backs turned to basic rights, without schedules, vacations and not even social security contributions.
Sideboards: a “miserable” salary and “not even thinking” about retirement
One of them, who prefers not to give her name for fear of losing work, is dedicated to sewing all the pieces that a shoe has in Elche, she is 60 years old and despite working since she was 15 she does not want to “not even think” about it. It is time to retire, since he has barely paid contributions for seven months.
“I don’t even want to consider it. I know that there will come a time when I won’t be able to work, but I don’t even want to think about it because it’s what I live on”, says one of the 7,332 women who, according to a study by the University of Alicante, work without paying contributions in the Alicante footwear sector. , invisible and feminized, since there are only 1,542 men who display it.
This “invisible” work was born after the large shoe companies outsourced the ‘equipment’ of the materials to small workshops -the process by which the pieces of a shoe are sewn-.
These small businesses hire third parties for this with salaries that do not exceed 3 euros/hour and that have not been updated for 25 years.
In an interview with EFE, this woman, who does not want to give her name for fear that they might stop giving her work, regrets that she works seven days a week with days of up to 14 hours, since the salary barely reaches 2 5 euros an hour and it is the only way to “reach a salary that is not miserable”.
She is one of the Association of Dressmakers and Footwear Workers, who went to the European Parliament Petitions Committee in Brussels last January to denounce these conditions and ask that they be recognized as a “dignified retirement.”
“There were people who pulled their hair out. How is it possible for this to happen in Europe?”, he assures that the MEPs wondered. “You hear that in Asia or South America they work charging 5 euros a day and you say ‘how is it possible?’ Well, here in Spain we are also working like this”.
“The interprofessional minimum wage (SMI) has equalized the categories of waiter and packer. If it weren’t for the SMI, we wouldn’t earn a thousand euros and the waiters would be charging more money than the packers, who work hard,” Rocío Viciana, a worker at the ACRENA Agricultural Transformation Society of Almería, told EFE.
In the specific case of his company, he clarifies, the situation was already different, since the courts ruled against wage discrimination based on sex in the handling sector and determined that “there is no objective reason to justify the difference in pay between waiters and packers , being functions of equal value”.
However, Viciana points out, this has not yet been reflected in the collective agreement, so the equalizing element has been the SMI. “In other companies, women and men have to work up to 16 hours a day to earn a salary of 1,400 or 1,500 euros. You have no personal life (…) The salary is very precarious, ”she adds.
Although he claims improvements for both sexes, he acknowledges that it is a “very feminized” sector. Of the 30,000 workers in the manipulated sector, approximately 85%, some 25,500, are women.
CSIF Almería is the union that made ACRENA’s ruling possible and its head of the Private Enterprise Sector, Francisco Rueda, tells EFE that the situation is still “very precarious” in the manipulated sector, since the “only salary increase that is really noticing after the signing of the last agreement is that of the SMI”.
These workers, he stresses, are “subject to the rule of the market” and are often notified with little time. “What happens if they call you at 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday to go to work? That if you don’t go through the hoop, they don’t call you in the next campaign. It is true that with the new regulations they are obliged to make them permanent discontinuous and to call them, but since it is a very precarious sector and the people have very little seniority, it hardly costs them money to compensate that worker ”, she affirms.
“The problem continues to be fear, precariousness and, worst of all, the need to work in a precarious sector,” says Rueda. “As the campaign slows down, the number of workers falls, but those people go on the dole because they have no other way to earn a living,” she concludes.
The future Sustainable Fishing Law, a project that will regulate the fishing grounds and which is facing the end of its parliamentary process, recognizes for the first time a reduction coefficient for the netters or neskatillas of the retirement age.
It was a historical demand of the sector, mostly female, highlights the National Association of Women in the Fisheries, which has also celebrated the increase in the reduction coefficient for shellfish women from the coast.
Ana Belén Regía has been a fisherman since she was 15. She describes this job, in statements to EFE, as “tough, especially in winter”, but “satisfying” because it gives her a freedom that she, at least, would not find in another occupation.
The president of the Association of Redeiras O Fieital de Malpica (A Coruña), Ángeles Mille, proudly expresses that the women of the sea are “strong, to push forward”. For this reason, they go “where the boats call”, explains Regía, who in a hurry lists the Cantabrian ports that they can visit in a week, since, as she herself recalls, “for a boat to be able to fish, we have to be us to tie up his nets.”
Another of her companions, Rosario Blanco, 60, has been working as a fishnet since she was taught to do so, first by her grandfather, when she was only 14 years old, and later by retired people who were skilled in minor arts.
“The majority of people don’t even think that this profession exists” admits the president of the Federación Galega de Rededeiras Artesás O Peirao, Verónica Veres.
Galicia, where the bulk of the fishing fleet is concentrated, brings together almost 80% of the sector, with a presence also in the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias.
According to data from the Social Institute of the Navy, in 2019 there were 532 women registered as netters, compared to 82 men. More than half of these netters, highlights the Spanish Network of Women in the Fishing Sector, were over 60 years old, and a large number had begun to practice the trade in childhood or adolescence, maintaining a tradition inherited from their ancestors.