Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Working Eight Months A Year

Carlos Herrera is a journalist. He has a large following on a radio show that goes out on COPE, one of the most listened to broadcasters in the country. By way of background, it is of interest to note that COPE started out life as an essentially religious broadcaster. It has become very much more general in its output, though it would appear that it is owned by the church in that the Spanish Episcopal Conference has 50% of the shares of the company to which COPE belongs. Dioceses and religious orders are other shareholders.

This does perhaps need bearing in mind, as it suggests that COPE might not be rabidly left-wing. Its politics and its ownership are, however, of only passing relevance to today's theme, which is one that Carlos has offered. On his show there is a slot, the title of which lends itself to alternative translations but which I shall call "fools' defibrillator". Carlos and co-host pick up on particular stories and offer to defibrillate those who have uttered foolishness or nonsense. And so it was that he held up to ridicule Laura Camargo of Podemos.

The travel magazine and website Preferente highlighted her inclusion on the show last week, noting - and this may or may not have been ironic - that Camargo is the only person in Podemos in the Balearics who has the capacity to think. She may be, but then what she thinks and says ended up being the target for Carlos.

This was specifically to do with her views on workers in the tourism industry who, after eight months' work, are knackered and shouldn't be expected to have to work through winter and therefore all year. In fact, she said this before Christmas, so the story is an old one. On 23 December I drew attention to her remarks, wondering why it should be deemed acceptable for workers to do no more than eight months.

Still, better than late never the Camargo eight-month opinion surfaced on Carlos's show last week and also became the focus of a set-to between Podemos and Ciudadanos (C's). Carlos found it hard to understand, given, for instance, that radio journalists work all year. They are not the only ones. If anyone is interested, I work twelve months a year, usually seven days a week and not untypically up to eleven or twelve hours a day. Am I knackered? All the time.

Ah but, this is just sitting down and typing, is it not? Generally, yes. But there is being physically knackered and there is being mentally knackered. Neither state is particularly ideal, but suffice it to say that I tended to agree with Carlos's observation.

Camargo came out with this eight-month business in the broader context of tourism policy. We don't want more tourists in the winter, she said, and used the knackered workers as a reason why not. What of course she was really getting at was that we (Podemos) don't want more tourists, full stop. In fact, we'd prefer that there were fewer of them. Camargo and Podemos are highly suspicious of government attempts to erode seasonality and therefore make the tourism season ever longer. The workers, it can seem (and probably are), something of a smokescreen.

Which is not to deny that there are workers in the tourism industry who put in long hours, day after day over a several-month period with few breaks (if at all) and don't get particularly well paid. Camargo has a point, especially when it comes to exploitation, but only up to a point. Politically, she is very much on the side of the workers and has made her feelings about hoteliers well enough known, and the politics were partly where Carlos Herrera was coming from, as most certainly also was the leader of the C's, Albert Rivera. He tweeted the other day that Camargo is a deputy with a party which proposes gifts of income paid for by the state.

Rivera's tweet brought differing responses. Some accused him of demagoguery. Others took issue with the Podemos view of work and supported him. In the latter camp was a tweet which read: "Some consider work to be a punishment and being on the dole a fiesta."

In addition to stirring up the political ill-feeling between Podemos and the C's (not that it needs much stirring), the Camargo remarks served not only as a statement about her party's views on tourism but also to reignite the whole issue of the unbalanced nature of work and employment.

She was essentially saying that the situation which has been created because of seasonality is as it should be. Tourism is not the only industry affected by seasonality, but there are others which are not. Would she advocate everyone working no more than eight months a year? Police, nurses, firemen just to take three examples. Defibrillate away, Carlos.

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