Proving that desperate measures can indeed alter desperate circumstances, the embarrassing “protest in chains” that has highlighted a problem suffered by so many hotel workers in the Algarve came to a close last night, with brave single-parent Marilu Santana finally going home to her own bed after 15 days and nights chained to the stairs in Clube Praia da Rocha.
A press conference detailing the agreement forged with tourist complex boss Paulo Martins is due as we write.
For now, all that is certain is that Marilu and fellow former workers owed money since last summer have at last been given some of their long overdue wages – with the written undertaking that the rest will follow this summer.
According to press reports the truce was only reached as a result of the intervention of Portimão Mayoress Isilda Gomes.
A source connected to the mayoress’ office stressed that the protest had become “an impediment to finding a solution” as the high-visibility of Marilu’s stand had already prompted tour operators to cancel holidays to Clube Praia da Rocha. If it continued, the source intimated, it would make the possibility of paying overdue salaries even more difficult as there would never be enough money available.
As variously reported when 52-year-old Marilu decided to chain herself to the railings of a stairwell at the complex, Clube Praia da Rocha is believed to owe a total of around €40,000 to various workers, many of whom no longer work at the complex.
Marilu told journalists when she began her protest: “I am either leaving here with my money, or dead”.
Throughout the 15 long days and nights, she was supported by fellow ex-workers – many of whom camped nearby to keep her company – as well as her local trade union.
Left-wing parties even brought the issue up in parliament.
Intriguingly, Clube Praia da Rocha’s current staff were not so supportive. Talking to us last week, they explained that they feared Marilu’s protest would compromise the payment of their own salaries.
“There are lots of other people in the Algarve in exactly the same position”, explained one – bringing the whole issue of seasonality and what it means to hotel and restaurant workers in the region into sharp focus.