Spanish migrants condemn ‘zero hours’ contracts

Letter writer 'Lola' says she is a housekeeper. Picture: contributed
Letter writer 'Lola' says she is a housekeeper. Picture: contributed
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SPANISH migrants living in the Capital have penned a heartfelt letter thanking locals for their hospitality – but denouncing the “zero hours” contracts many are forced to work under.

Campaign group Spanish Workers in Edinburgh is set to hold a protest on The Mound this Sunday at 6pm to raise awareness of the situation facing many immigrants to the UK.

The protesters, who have the backing of the Spanish consulate, insist they want to give a voice to young migrants and explain why many feel compelled to leave their homeland in search of better prospects.

Their letter, penned under the name “Lola” and printed in full in the Evening News, reads: “Edinburgh is one of the European cities with the largest Spanish expatriate communities. Even though it is true a few of us have landed well-paid jobs in qualified positions, the majority of us do unqualified work in precarious conditions.”

Organiser Alejandro Gálvez said the aim of the protest was to provide migrants with a voice and grab the attention of politicians at home and in the UK.

The 27-year-old said he was expecting between 100 and 200 people to turn up on Sunday, adding: “For 20 to 30-year-olds, we don’t have opportunities in Spain, and so we have had to emigrate to Scotland or the rest of the UK. We feel abandoned. We don’t get [politicians’] attention, and that’s what we are trying to achieve.”

THE LETTER

My name is Lola. I am an immigrant [to Scotland] and proud to be so. Some time back I graduated from college in Spain and now I have a housekeeping job at an Edinburgh hostel. I am not an isolated case. Around half of all young Spaniards are leaving the country in search for opportunities that back home are really hard to come by. Migration all of a sudden has become an all too familiar concept to us where it once wasn’t. We all know one (or a few) friends or relatives, that have felt the need to leave their home to be able to earn a livelihood.

Edinburgh is one of the European cities with the largest Spanish expatriate community. Even though it is true a few of us have landed well-paid jobs in qualified positions, the majority of us do unqualified work in precarious conditions. Many, myself included, are employed under the nefarious zero ­hours contract where minimum wage is the norm and neither work nor some of the most essential workers’ rights are warranted. This means not knowing how much you will be earning every week or whether you will be able to afford paying your rent and bills and support your most basic needs.

In the beginning of my time here I used to think that only expatriates would accept such working conditions but this is certainly not the case. There are increasing numbers of Scottish labourers that are being pushed to agree to low wages, uncertain hours and workplace disempowerment. On the bright side both local folks and Spaniards are being culturally enriched and are learning from one another. These new life experiences are helping me learn a lot and this thought comforts me. I believe our people, particularly the Spanish youth, is coming of age as mature and learned.

When facing this avalanche of migrants, I believe it is necessary to explain the Scottish people the reasons that have brought us here and to thank this nation for her generosity and the support we are being offered. I feel very sympathetic for your culture, your history, and your sense of community. Thank you for your wonderful welcoming and warm treatment, for your education system and scholarship opportunities as well as your healthcare, and for allowing us to be part of your present and your future.

Despite all of these opportunities many of us wish to return to our land one day and be able to fulfill our aspirations surrounded by our families and friends.

This said, many of us do not harbour much hope that the situation in Spain will improve enough for us to want to return, at least in the short term. Many of us feel completely ignored by our government who makes it a real odyssey to cast our ballots and only around 5% of the Spanish expats managed to vote in the last Spanish general elections.

What’s more, the exodus of the Spanish youth is being used as a badge of honour by our government as it lowers the unemployment rate in an act of indescribable cynicism. We want to defend our rights and we want

that both the Spanish and the Scottish people become aware of our prerogative.