The Spanish government has said that it won't punish businesses that regularise any illegal workers that they have, providing they voluntarily register the workers before June 30th (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The employment amnesty means that employers will only have to pay social security payments that are applicable to such workers from January 1st, 2011, and give them a proper employment contract. In this way, the employers will avoid possible inspections from the Social Security department, which could otherwise result in having to pay social security contributions for the past four years, along with a fine and interest on top. This is one of the measures included in the draft of proposals that are due to be approved by the Spanish cabinet this Friday as a way of dealing with illegal workers in the country. However, the proposal doesn't have the support of various groups, including trade unions, making it the first area of contention in discussions about how to regularise illegal workers with these social groups. The unions are fearful that the change could leave some employees vulnerable, because they will be given temporary contracts and the time worked prior to January won't be recognised, which would affect any future redundancy payment they would be entitled to.
The announcement by the Generalitat's interior minister, Felip Puig, that the Catalan government will start fining prostitutes and their clients this summer, following the municipal elections on May 22nd, has been welcomed by some town mayors, but others are less convinced (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). They say that it is necessary to create an overall project to deal with the problem throughout the whole of Catalunya, but at the moment there is a lack of any kind of coordination to achieve this. Puig himself has admitted that the definitive solution to the problem would need a change to the Spanish penal code, which is the jurisdiction of the Spanish state. As such, despite numerous attempts, the mayors feel unable to do anything definitive to deal with the issue, which includes prostitutes who ply their wares by roadsides. Measures taken in the past have seen some changes, but the effects generally only last for a temporary period. In addition, the women tend to simply move onto another town: for example, in the town of Tordera (inland from the Costa Brava town of Blanes), they started fining prostitutes and their clients, and in response, the women moved to municipalities slightly to the north; as a result, the affected towns of Vidreres and Sils put in place their own regulations to try and deal with their presence. With each town seeking to get rid of prostitution on an individual level, there have been more failures than successes and now that the good weather is returning with the arrival of spring, the roadside prostitutes are also returning, particularly in the province of Girona. Measures taken to evict them by different towns include: fines, security guards working with local police and large blocks of stone put in place as obstacles to the spots where prostitutes often take their clients.
Catalunya has done well out of the Easter break this year, with a good number of tourists choosing the region to spend their holiday (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Hotels in Barcelona were close to full, while on the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada, the occupancy rates were around 60 and 80 percent respectively. However, in the Pyrenees, the inclement weather had a negative effect on the number of visitors. The President of the Catalan Confederation of Tourist Accommodation, Joan Molas, said that the arrival of visitors during the past week augured well for the summer season, while the president of the Catalan Travel Agency Association, Francesc Carnerero, spoke yesterday of moderate optimism thanks to the good Easter week. The tourist sector is erring on the side of prudence, following bad years in both 2009 and 2010, but believes that an important sign of things to come was the presence not only of traditional tourist groups, including British, German and French visitors but also other nationalities such as Scandinavians and Russians. In addition, the average stay has increased from four to five days, said Frank Granados of the Association of Tourist Apartments of Barcelona; Granados also commented that some tourists had chosen the Catalan capital instead of places in north Africa recently affected by political upheaval.