Costa del Sol News - 19th November 2012

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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IAG plans 4,500 layoffs at Iberia and takeover of Vueling

Workers threaten strikes; government calls for ‘sensibility' from both sides

By Oliver McIntyre

THE PARENT company of British Airways and Iberia, IAG, has made a takeover offer for Spanish low-cost airline Vueling while announcing major job cuts and restructuring at Iberia.

The restructuring at loss-making Iberia - which is 262 million euros in the red in the first nine months of this year - includes slashing 4,500 jobs, announced by IAG last Friday. Trade unions described the huge layoff plan - which represents more than 20 per cent of the airline's workforce of around 20,000 - as "brutal" and threatened protests and strike actions.

Employment minster Fátima Báñez called for "sensibility and flexibility" by the company in seeking possible alternatives to some of the layoffs, while public works minister Ana Pastor urged "dialogue, negotiation and understanding" from both sides. She sat down with Iberia on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

The poor performance of Iberia was blamed as the principal cause for a 25 per cent drop in third-quarter profits posted by IAG on Friday. The group's Q3 operating profit was 270 million euros, down from 363 million euros in the same period last year.

"Iberia is in a fight for survival and we will transform it to reduce its cost base so it can grow profitably in the future," IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement on Friday.

The restructuring is also to include cutting capacity in Iberia's network by 15 per cent in 2013, focusing on profitable routes and downsizing its fleet by 25 aircraft.

Fallout and accusations after Madrid teen deaths

Town hall, facing harsh criticism, blames the company behind the ill-fated music event

By Oliver McIntyre

THE DEATH of four teenage girls at a Halloween dance party in Madrid (CDSN last week) has resulted in political fallout and recriminations in the city as more information emerges on the circumstances that led to the tragedy.

The victims - three of them aged 18 and the other 17 - died after being crushed in a stampede in a crowded passageway inside the Madrid Arena pavilion, a municipal facility that was rented out to a private company for the event.

The town hall initially reported that the company, DivereTT SA, had sold fewer tickets than the arena's 10,600 capacity. However, it later accused the company of lying, after initial police reports indicated the capacity had been significantly exceeded during the event.

But the town hall itself came under fire as it emerged that the rental contract for use of the arena had been for an event with a maximum attendance of 5,000, and that the town hall had not altered it or increased the price accordingly when the company indicated possible attendance of 7,000, or when it submitted its final ticket sales figure of 9,650.

The contract also stipulated that security during the event, both inside and outside the arena, was the responsibility of the town hall, through the security company it contracts for such events.

Police reports have indicated the cause of the stampede may have been a rush of people storming into the pavilion without tickets as the star DJ of the night took the stage, and not the shooting off of a flare as was at first believed.

Mother arrested after dead infant found in freezer

Husband, with whom she has two other children, didn't know she was pregnant

By Oliver McIntyre

A WOMAN has been arrested in the Sevilla town of Pilas after her husband discovered a dead infant wrapped in plastic in the family's kitchen freezer.

After her arrest a week ago Friday, the woman, Sara L.H., 35, admitted to Guardia Civil officers that the baby was hers, said the town's mayor, Jesús María Sánchez.

However, the judge has issued a gag order in the case and few details are known regarding whether the baby was born alive or was stillborn. It is understood the infant was very small and may have been at only seven or eight months of gestation, though autopsy results are awaited to confirm both the stage of development and whether the baby was born alive. It exhibited no outward signs of violence.

Nobody, including the woman's husband, with whom she has two other children, knew that she was pregnant.

Volunteers sought for tree planting campaign

Work to be carried out in sierra as well as low-difficulty riverbank zones

By Oliver McIntyre

MIJAS TOWN hall has announced the launch of its annual reforestation campaign in the local sierra and other zones, with local associations, school children and individual volunteers joining the effort.

Much of this year's campaign will be focused on the Los Borbotes zone of Las Ermiticas in the local sierra, one of the areas worst affected by the large forest fire of 2001, said officials.

However, there will also be planting activities in more easily accessible zones such as the banks of the Río Fuengirola and the mouths of local arroyos, allowing the participation of "people with less experience as well as schoolchildren," said environment councillor Carmen Márquez.

"This is an open call, and anyone can participate, regardless of whether they are a member of an association or other group," she said.

Volunteers will be coordinated by workers from the town hall's Environment Department, who will supply the necessary tools and equipment. The town hall has also contracted a specialist private company to help with the reforestation work, and will acquire 13,000 saplings of a variety of tree species, as well as seeds.

Floods return to inland Málaga

Residents isolated by high water in some zones and evacuated from others

By Dave Jamieson

JUST A month after disastrous floods struck inland areas of Málaga, heavy rain last Friday brought more chaos and damage. Emergency services in the province received almost 200 calls for help as country roads were washed away and communities were left isolated.

In Alhaurín de la Torre, 35 families were evacuated as a precautionary measure while four families were moved from their homes in Antequera and two people in Cártama were rescued from their isolated, riverside property.

By the weekend, around 50 families remained isolated in areas of Álora and did not expect to be able to leave for a number of days. Mayor José Sánchez said that some roads had completely disappeared while a water course through the area was running very high. Residents in the Bellavista district of the municipality lost their drinking water supply after wells which serve them were inundated on Friday, shortly after being repaired following the previous floods.

In Almogía, too, a number of families were left isolated after some roads disappeared and others were severely damaged while 14 families in a rural area of Alhaurín de la Torre were not isolated but had to wait for the level of the Guadalhorce River to fall before being allowed back into their homes. Some of them had not fully completed clean-up tasks following the September deluge.

Sharp increase in drug busts around schools

Officials say uptick is due to stepped-up patrolling, not increased use

By Oliver McIntyre

THE number of drug busts in school zones has increased sharply in Málaga province, with more cases in the first nine months of this year than were registered in all of 2011, reported law enforcement officials last week.

Up to the end of September the National Police issued 269 citations for the possession or consumption of drugs in school zones, compared to 253 during all of last year, according to data offered during last week's presentation of the third General Plan for Improved School Security.

Patrolling in school zones also resulted in 10 arrests and the break-up of five points of sale for drugs, said officials.

In the smaller towns that come under Guardia Civil jurisdiction, officers have issued 10 citations for consumption or possession of drugs in school zones and made one arrest.


Public outcry forces government and banks to take action

By Dave Jamieson

FOLLOWING widespread public outcry and several incidents of suicide, the government is today expected to approve new measures to address the epidemic of evictions related to mortgage payment defaults.

The move follows meetings earlier this week between representatives of the two main political parties which reached substantial agreement on the most urgent action required. A two-year moratorium on foreclosures for people in dire circumstances is expected to be at the centre of the changes.

The government has talked of suspending eviction orders for vulnerable families, including those in which no-one is working and those which include minors, while the socialist opposition called for suspending those orders which affect principal residences.

On Monday, the Spanish Banks Association said its members were prepared to suspend evictions in what it called "cases of extreme need for humanitarian reasons". The Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks also said last week it would suspend evictions of "particularly vulnerable" families from their homes, although it did not define what it meant by "extreme need". Three of the country's savings banks have already suspended the practice of evicting families who cannot pay their mortgage repayments, ahead of any decision by ministers and possible changes to legislation.

Crackdown on disabled parking cheats

Several Britons were amongst those making fraudulent use of disabled parking cards

By Oliver McIntyre

LOCAL police in Mijas have seized 56 disabled parking cards that were being used fraudulently, including many authentic cards that were expired and no longer valid as well as some downright falsifications, reported officials last week.

The crackdown was launched earlier this year after a disabled British resident of the town reported to authorities that other Britons were making fraudulent use of disabled parking cards.

The whistleblower's complaint sparked a tightening of enforcement, with officers making closer inspection of cars parked in disabled parking spaces throughout the town. The result was the seizure of cards from not only Britons but also Spaniards and drivers of other nationalities.