Half a century of working 12-hour days, without pension or social rights. This is the life of about 17,000 dressers in Elche, women who work at home or in workshops that make shoes for major Spanish brands. And this Tuesday they arrived in Brussels invited by anti-capitalist MEP Miguel Urban to meet with the European Commission and members of the European Parliament and convey their fight for pensions and decent work.
“We were girls when we started working more than 50 years ago. When we started in the factories, we were 12, 14 years old. And today, five decades later, we are still in the same situation, with unstable work, no contribution and a sinking industry,” explains Isabel Matute, spokesperson for the Elche Sideboard Association: “And this is now. When we have it, we should retire soon, but it is impossible, because there is no right to pension, because they do not have contracts, according to the regulations, according to our agreement, neither for domestic work, nor in the workshops where the production was issued. “.
In a sector that thrives on the shadow economy and which in 2017 had a turnover of 2,200 million in the Valencian community alone, they say in the association.
We are condemned to social exclusion”, laments Mathute: “Nothing is done, the agreements on paper are very good, the laws are very good, but there is no point for us if they are not applied later, not politically or otherwise. . The fact is that the various governments we have had so far have done absolutely nothing and we are completely vulnerable to the social exclusion to which all women in this sector are condemned.”
Matute explains that from his association, “complaints are ongoing and there is a sentence of imprisonment for businessmen, because it is a crime, it is a crime against the rights of the employee. But despite everything that is happening, there is no way to break the established system of the underground industry, of course, because of the movement of millions of euros. The labor inspectorate goes to the workshops, closes them, and opens the next week under a different name. And since the owners are insolvent, no matter how big the fine, they won’t pay and absolutely nothing will happen. They reopen the workshop and that’s it. This happens all the time.”
“From what we understand, it’s the same model that’s used in Southeast Asia when there’s manufacturing outsourcing,” adds Urban: “The big brand doesn’t hire directly, and that’s the key element. These people, shoe workers, dressers, are hired by subcontractors. They are the big brands that don’t bother and don’t worry about the stain of unpleasant labor to remove our shoes, but even when they systematically violate labor laws, both European and Spanish, in the end they have figures who are the ones who care that such They don’t even pay fines.”
“We collected 50,000 signatures in record time to recognize the years of work of the shoemakers and workers,” recalls Matute, “and we took it to the Minister of Labor, who told us that it was not his responsibility.” So we took them to Inclusion and Social Security and to date, it’s been almost a year, sir. [José Luis] Escrivá didn’t bother to answer.”
Urban explained that the European Commission conveyed that “the only way they would try, in quotes, for the Commission to investigate, was to file a complaint with the Commission, which should be an organization, in this case an association, that they created themselves. . Then there is the petitions committee of the European Parliament, where they are asking, after the appearance, that there should be a mission with recommendations to the Spanish government to solve this problem.”
“We started working at the age of 14”, adds Mathue: “We have been working for 40, 50 years and we can add three years, in my case six years. And there are even colleagues who do not have a single quoted day and have spent their entire lives. Moreover, they are detached women who only have what they earn. They should be retired, but they continue to work with a small force, with all the ills of our profession, and here, even they cannot pass. And that’s why we’re so sick, because these are marathon days that can last from ten to 11 to 11, up to 12 hours a day. All this depends on the need to make this order every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Are there cases of countrymen who have condemned and suffered consequences? “Really,” says Mathue: “Nothing was revealed to me, I lost my job.” And there are many colleagues like me who have lost their jobs. In fact, we knew it would happen, but it was enough to put up with this situation and everyone talked about feminism when there is such a serious problem for women.”
Mathute recounts the ailments they suffer from: “There are countless: cervical problems, back problems, blood circulation problems, carpal tunnel problems, pinched nerves. We have shoulder operations, knee problems, hip problems, psychological problems because of the mistreatment and the uncertain situation we live in all the time.”
My colleague Soledad Cano says: “I’ve been working since I was 13, I’ve been working for 51 years, and what I’ve contributed to my 64 years doesn’t reach eight years and I won’t have a pension.” of any kind. And the diseases that we have are never recognized because you go to the doctor and the doctor says: Madam, we will discharge you. And what kind of work does he do?’ And you cannot answer: “I do not work in any company.” I have a car at home and I work 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. Everyone knows that we work from home, that we work for very important brands.”
“I myself have lost 36% of the peripheral vision in my left eye,” says Francisca Matute, “but this is due to a thrombosis problem, because we spend so many hours on the car that we have serious problems with leg swelling. And circulation.”
And how much do they pay per hour? “It’s worth €3 if you’re very lucky”; Isabel Matute says: “The last job I did was 1.50 an hour. They offer below what the law incentivizes, so you have no choice but to work those ten, 11, or 12 hours to reach the negotiated minimum wage.
Encarnación López explains: “I’ve been working in dressers since I was 13, plus the apprenticeship I had before. At the age of 13, they bought me a car and I started at home. I’ve been listed for nine years, which I don’t think is enough, and I’m 64 years old. And on top of that I have a herniated disc, bad cervicals, dry vertebrae, braces, knee pain and hip disqualification.
“We are used to why are we going to say anything else, that everyone is talking hypocrites about people’s rights. And in light of this we said we would fight to make you fall on your face in shame because you are hypocrites because you say one thing and then they don’t obey. It only happens to us because we are women.”
Source: El Diario