Spain's regional crisis hammers firms and families

Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:37pm GMT

By Tracy Rucinski and Clare Kane

MADRID (Reuters) - Overdue bills are piling up at Spain's regional governments and town halls, only months after Madrid staged a rescue that was meant to end the shame of unpaid workers and suppliers.

Financial crisis in the layers of administration below national level is hurting everyone from Spain's biggest corporations to local staff who would be among the lowest-paid workers - but for the fact they often aren't being paid at all.

Inma Martinez, a separated mother of four, is one such victim of attempts by regional and local governments to finance their budget deficits by delaying payments.

Like her fellow municipal employees in the southern town of La Linea de la Concepcion, she is owed eight months of unpaid wages. Nevertheless, she turns up every day to clean the bus station, fearing that if she stays at home the town hall will fire her, probably ending any chance of recovering her wages.

Martinez, 47, has been reduced to begging for food with other local families at a shopping centre in La Linea, which nestles next to the British territory of Gibraltar.

"We just want help with food ... it's very hard for the church to help everyone at the moment," said Martinez, who has worked as a cleaner in the Andalucian coastal town for 14 years.

Now Martinez, whose children are aged from 12 to 27, says she is suffering from depression because of the uncertainty over her job. "People have lost everything - their cars, their houses. The situation is really, really bad and they won't give us any concrete information," she said.

This should not be happening. Earlier this year Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy offered a 30 billion euro ($39 billion)bailout to cover months, or even years, of unpaid bills for services ranging from health care to waste management.   Continued...

Fernando Perez, 63, owner of the make-up store "Harpo", poses inside his business in Madrid October 4, 2012. REUTERS/Andrea Comas
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