Arona, Where PR Means Piles of Rubbish

First impressions are vital, especially if you are a holiday resort so it was particularly bad that today, International Day of Tourism, saw the streets of Arona at their worst with rubbish cascading from groaning bins and bags and boxes piled high. Arona covers the busy destinations of Los Cristianos and part of Playa de Las Americas and lives largely on visitor income. Since Friday the 300 refuse collectors and cleaners have been on strike as they hold out for 900,000 euros of outstanding overtime payments dating back to June.

Since I moved to Tenerife my appreciation of the refuse collectors has being heightened by their efficiency, and brought into stark contrast by the crazy rotating collection service in England that sees some types of rubbish picked up one week and a differfent sort the next. A few weeks ago I had my first hands on experience of this and was staggered at the bewildering array of different coloured boxes that have to be put out at the right time to avoid a public flogging.

Originally settling on the west coast the occaisional deluge of winter rain would sweep down the hill into Los Gigantes bringing a muddy deposit in its wake. I was always amazed at the dedicated early morning response from the cleaners who would be there digging in with shovels and brooms as the late lamented mayor Pancracio Socas made a point of being there with an encouraging pat on the back and a thank you. Then there was the nightly, yes nightly, rounds by the bin men who would remove pretty well anything that was put out for them.

That same service has always been on show here in the south and I have frequently remarked in this blog about how quickly the cleaners mop up after fiestas, concerts and parades. Every year the Sunday afternoon Los Cristianos parade is followed up the road by the cleaners for instant removal of the debris left by this colourful event and the huge crowds it attracts. As a keen swimmer I also notice the quick clean up of the beaches and promanade, even after the night of San Juan when barbecues, fires and parties are held all over the sand. These sort of set piece events mean that overtime is a fact of life for the refuse services on this island.

I believe these extra hours are normally paid every three months, certainly the current outstanding balance is for payments due in June and September but the workers were offered their money in late November, an improvement on the original offer of January 2011. As it stands the strike looks set to run into Wednesdays national General Strike that has been called across Spain, so it could be Thursday before the rubbish is moved, and it is very hot here, that’s why nightly collections are so important. The daft thing is once this dispute is settled the cleaners will need to work more overtime to clear the backlog – and so the dance begins again. What a load of rubbish.