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Areas Urbanism & territory, Tourism and Economic activities Handicraft, trade and markets

Taking on precarious employment

foto presentacio pla de lluitaTwo officials of the Govern balear —labour minister Iago Negueruela and department chair Isabel Castro—, meeting in the plenary hall of the Formentera Council to share the results of a 2016 plan to tackle precarious employment, announced improved conditions this summer for 412 Formentera locals.

Also present at the gathering was Formentera's councillor of tourism, land and trade, Alejandra Ferrer, who highlighted 2016 as the second straight year of cooperation between Formentera and Palma on the plan. Calling the joint efforts “necessary to eliminating the precariousness that grips the Balearics”, Ferrer called on the Govern to remain firm in its engagement.

According to the councillor, this July and August, 361 local job contracts became permanent as a direct result of the efforts of two inspectors dispatched to the island. The plan of action is backed by the Palma ministry of labour, trade and industry and assisted by the provincial department of the labour inspectorate. Thanks to the summer push, more than four hundred Formentera residents saw their working conditions improve through changes to employment contracts, extended work hours or new job offers.

This year's encouraging results reflected improvements in the campaign, such as more time to coordinate and plan inspections, said Negueruela, who thanked the Formentera Council for supporting efforts by providing the inspectors lodging as well as other assistance.

In particular, the 2016 figures show a 178% year-on-year spike in individuals who benefitted from better employment conditions. Minister Negueruela pointed to 560 workers who had experienced improvements in the last two years thanks to the campaign.

Temporary contracts
As for revisions of temporary contracts, Formentera boasted more than any other island. Locally, the number of short-term contracts transformed into permanent ones jumped from 121 to 361, a 66.5% increase on last year's figures. A total of 9,256 job contracts were reviewed throughout the Balearics, of which, 3,381 were changed to “indefinite” arrangements, which means that more than one in three (36%) was previously in breach of the law. Last year contract transformations took place just 25% of the time.

Extended working hours
As for part-time versus full-time employment, Formentera is also the island that logged the most cases of illegal work schedule arrangements, which, according to the inspectors, were up 76%. In due form, working hours were legally extended in 37 cases, up from 21 similar cases in 2015.

It was also reported that 93 employees who should have been registered with social security were never registered. Corrections in those cases were made accordingly. On Formentera there were a total of 13 “transformed social security registrations”.

Punitive measures
On the heels of the inspection crew's efforts in July and August, penalties were pursued in 12 cases for a combined sum of €39,400. In the entire Illes Balears region, 89 such sanctions were brought for a total of €342,230.

In winter, Formentera seeks to attract English tourists

foto wtm 2 2016Today marked the first day of World Travel Market, England's leading tourism trade show. Representing and promoting Formentera at the London event, which runs through Wednesday, November 9, 2016, are Formentera Council (CiF) president Jaume Ferrer, councillor of tourism Alejandra Ferrer and, director of Formentera's tourism advisory board, Carlos Bernús.

Formentera is being represented at the Balearic Islands' stand, where Universitat de les Illes Balears (UIB) students are on hand to attend to fair visitors. One goal shared by all four islands in the archipelago is “to get the word out about the pre- and post-summer seasons”, the tourism councillor pointed out. The agency for tourism in the Balearics (ATB for its initials in Catalan) has published a magazine to promote off-season visits.

According to Councillor Ferrer, Formentera's marketing push is particularly important in England given the year-round flights in place between London and Eivissa. She described plans to meet with various PR companies and online marketing firms in an effort to boost Formentera's presence in the English market.

Formentera to put funds from tourist-use rentals towards improvements in Es Pujols and Es Ca Marí

platja es pujols premsaToday Formentera's committee on matters related to tourism, la Comissió Turística, held an extraordinary session to report on money collected through tourist-rental certifications. In the last two years, €833,168 has been collected as payments for 1,150 tourist rental permits on a total ultimately projected to reach €2,054,819. As payments are often made in instalments the total sum has yet to be received in full.

The committee green-lighted a proposal to funnel the collected money into Es Pujols improvementprojects like sanitation and other activities in the town's centre. In the words of tourism councillor Alejandra Ferrer, some of the actions will be aimed at diversification away from seasonal tourism. Plans are also under way to draft a sanitation and improvements plan in Es Ca Marí.

According to Ferrer, 181 spots for tourist accommodation can still be obtained, either to legalise heretofore illegal rentals or for new dwellings. The committee's membership includes stakeholders in civil society, members of the business community, political parties with CiF plenary representation and the CCOO and UGT trade unions. Part of the committee's mission is to decide on the investments that will be made in areas such as seasonal diversification, development and promotion of tourist activities, urban improvements and training opportunities.

New inspection unit of CiF's land and tourism offices tallied 400 checks this summer

foto servei dinspeccio formenteraToday tourism councillor Alejandra Ferrer gave an appraisal of the Formentera Council's inspection unit since its launch this summer. In its first months the crew, an arm of the Office of Tourism and the Office of Land, carried out 700 educational visits and 400 inspections.

Occupying public land
Agents reported 39 cases of businesses occupying public land without a permit. Thirty applications for permits generated €14,806 in revenue, another €17,664 came as payments on overdue fees and sixty fines were issued which brought in €17,861.

Commercial activity
Checks of 47 businesses led to the discovery that 22 were without required paperwork and incurred punitive fines. In addition, other controls resulted in 17 proceedings being brought for illegal commercial activities. In those cases, €90,628 in fines were issued, plus fines totalling €14,050 for failure to respect established operating hours.

Twenty-seven controls were conducted at seven of the island's rental car agencies. These led to penalties of €153,000 for carrying on business activity in areas zoned as rural and using public parking spaces for rental cars without the required permit. Activity was shut down at three businesses and three rural-zoned plots were cordoned off for that reason.

In tourism, charges were brought in ten cases following checks of one hundred dwellings. One business with 17 apartments was forced to close when the owners were discovered in absence of the required permit. In that case litigation is being sought. The checks targeted a random assortment of businesses picked by a council task force to develop a summer inspections roadmap.

Forty-three thousand euros in fines were issued after sites were found to be offering accommodation online (infractions that were later corroborated with the discovery of guests). As for the task of regularising tourist-use lodgings, 173 checks were conducted and 354 new rentals declared, not to mention an additional 90 cases pending processing or checks which are projected to generate two thousand new tourist beds.

In urbanism in 2016, 51 proceedings opened to re-establish businesses' legal standing will also have punitive effects. Currently, 43 corrective measures have been pursued, of which 25 were completed. Since the start of the present legislative session, 60 of the 99 disciplinary measures sought have been applied in full. Thirty-three resulted in demolition orders, 26 regularised business activity through available legal channels (legalisation or partial or full voluntary demolition) and one case expired. Urbanism fines revenues in this legislative sitting total €242,883.

Educational campaigns
Summer served as the opportunity to collect information for various awareness campaigns this winter: clearing rural land, fixing traditional stone walls and revamping commercial signage in rural areas are just a few. Regularising tourist accommodations, an object of regular questioning and motive for new registrations, will remain a target of outreach.

In Councillor Ferrer's words: “The inspection unit, by applying limits and regulating both commercial activity and land use for tourism, aims to curb unfair competition and ensure the rules of engagement are respected, raising the bar in terms of tourism and social well-being.”

Supreme court nullifies section of law on tourism in Balearics

foto consell premsaThe superior court of justice in the Balearic Islands (TSJB, for its initials in Catalan) issued a partial ruling on the Formentera Council's suit challenging Decret 20/2015, a statute of the regional tourism law. The court, finding Title II of the statute does not comply with the law, declared it to be null.

In its verdict, the TSJB says the law's preamble contradictorily pledges to provide the Balearic island councils with “broad freedoms” —an idea which is reiterated in nine of Title II's chapters— to develop the content of the different chapters. However, the ruling reads, “the affirmations made in Decret 20/2015 are fictitious”, pointing out that “in practise the councils aren't given the ability to regulate on areas of local jurisdiction”.

According to CiF tourism councillor Alejandra Ferrer, the verdict is proof that the regional tourism law encroached on the authority of island councils. (The island of Mallorca, which has never been given authority on tourism, presents an exception.) Formentera's legal services will now study their next move. Annulment, they say, is a possibility. In Ferrer's words, “it is our belief that the rest of the decree's titles are also contradictory, given they fail to bestow the island councils with the legislative authority which they are due”.

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