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Cadiz, a paradise in unemployment

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A worker put up a sticker reading “No more precariousness” during the metal demonstration in Cadiz last November.Marco Moreno

A symbol can arise at any time and in any place. The one about the metal strikes in Cádiz was shot on November 23 in an avenue in the working-class Río San Pedro neighborhood of Puerto Real. Outrage swept the province and country as a huge police tank drove by to quell the violent protests. In the middle of the campaign for the elections in Andalusia this Sunday, the tank has confirmed the value felt as an allegory of the evil of work that afflicts Cádiz, without recognizing any national or regional reaction. Each has reinterpreted the moment in their own way, from the vengeful couplets of that past carnival to the clues interested in damaging far-right candidate Macarena Olona’s union struggle in last Monday’s debate. But no one seems to find the answer that, despite its strategic location and tourist potential, allows the province to escape the paradox of being the epicenter of unemployment.

With more than 1.2 million inhabitants, Cadiz is the most populous Andalusian province. It manages one of the most important cargo ports in Europe – Algeciras – and the most prominent chemical site in Andalusia – in Campo de Gibraltar. Its wind and 3,000 hours of sunshine make it one of the Andalusian leaders in renewable energy production. The 260 kilometers of coast, the six natural parks and the 27 historic monumental complexes fuel such a growing tourism that the service sector already employs 78.4% of the active population in the region, according to data from the latest active population survey.

But the paradox becomes frustrating when one contrasts these stimuli with the strains that are lowering optimism in Cádiz: In the first quarter, Andalusian unemployment led communities like La Línea de la Concepción, at 26.3% unemployment, seasonally adjusted only in the summer or Sanlúcar de an Barrameda keeps creeping into the rankings with the lowest per capita incomes, the informal economy and drug trafficking impoverish the social reality of Cádiz in many neighborhoods and business density is “20 points below the national average for businesses (per thousand inhabitants), ten points below the regional average,” recalls Javier Sánchez Rojas, President of the Cadiz Employers’ Confederation.

A group of women play bingo on the beach of La Caleta de Cádiz, sheltered by umbrellas, during these hot days.
A group of women play bingo on the beach of La Caleta de Cádiz, sheltered by umbrellas, during these hot days. Emilio Morenatti (AP)

The endemic crisis in Cádiz began with the loss of overseas trade in the 19th century, worsened with the industrial dismantling of the shipyards in the 1970s and 1980s, worsened even further with the economic recession that began in 2007 and when indicators improved , The pandemic has swept away 10,000 companies, which have now been replaced by new companies and are therefore “weaker”, as Sánchez Rojas admits. Faced with this panorama, the province seemed split on its claims – there is the unofficial tri-capital of Cadiz, Jerez and Algeciras – and its discrediting in the face of politics with alarming data from teetotal communities – 60% of Puerto Serrano residents did not in vote the last Andalusian of 2018—. Until the metal strike in November, territories and workers from different sectors united in their cries against precariousness.

“The working class, which had been forgotten, was spoken of again. The problem of metal is just as important as that of the hotel industry.” Seven months after that riot, David Rodríguez, a 52-year-old temp electrician and one of the founders of the Bahía de Cádiz Metalworkers’ Union coordinators, summarizes what the strike was for. He lives on Avenida Fermín Salvochea del Río San Pedro, the very street that went viral that November day because of the presence of the tank. After striking the agreement that ended the strike but failed to satisfy later workers like Rodríguez, the worker is clear about what it was like for those days and the police reaction: “It passed by my side and it was unbelievable. Over time, I think that encouraged us to see just how clumsy they were.”

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Rodríguez perceives that the people of Cádiz are now more united in defending their interests than before the demonstrations, although he also acknowledges that the metal’s situation is much more precarious today than it was in the 1980s, when the province’s workers once again closed ranks for shipyard protests . He’s not the only one who thinks so. Sociologist from the University of Cádiz Manuel Arcila believes that there have been “little changes” in recent months: “It’s not just the exaggerated and unfortunate reaction of the tank, it’s the reflection on spending and future budgets for the province. In the end, everything stays as promised. The campaign is an example of issues that have been pending for decades, such as the new hospital [de Cádiz capital]. No one is ashamed to raise an issue that should already be resolved.

It’s one of the reasons Rodriguez is clear that the people of Cadiz “should protest more”. “I worked in northern Spain for many years. The further south, the less work there is and the less agreements are fulfilled. In Cádiz, they work more hours and are paid less compared to the reality in the north,” Rodríguez reflects. And that the province is still marked by two important issues that are also a paradigm for the most negative image of the Andalusian. An exterior that marks it as a high-conflict work zone, ostensibly dedicated only to leisure and partying. Another interior, where the population is caught in a certain “victim vocation”, as Arcila points out, forged on the basis of decades of institutional devotion to a periphery that continues to await a specific solution that does not materialize.

Despite this, Arcila highlights how unemployment data has improved in recent months, largely due to tourism trying – with too much effort – to decouple from the season. “We’re still on hold, but we’re not that bad,” says the sociologist. Javier Sánchez Rojas also refuses to be pessimistic and recalls the path of growth that Cádiz embarked on before the pandemic and that the province will achieve again, despite the international context of inflation and war in Ukraine: “The challenge now is to regain this path of growth growth”. And if the road doesn’t always stay. Precisely what the Coordinadora del Metal has been appealing to these months, focused on extending their struggle to other sectors such as the hotel industry, where they have already created a box of resistance to protect workers in the sector who are forced to go on strike . “The only way to do anything is with the citizens. Individuality leads to nothing. We need the people of Cadiz on our side and if the workers unite it will be good for us too.”

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Source elpais.com

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