Sunday, 12 September 2010
Time to say goodbye
To all intents and purposes that’s the way the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago is funded. The Cathedral receives a specific grant from local and regional government to fund the work which is done receiving pilgrims in Santiago. Add the bureaucracy of government funding to the less- than- cutting- edge management skills of the Church and you’ll soon see where this story is going.
It is a feature of Spanish employment law that if those employed on temporary contracts are employed too long or too often they are given permanent status automatically with all of the rights that entails for them and the responsibilities it implies for employers. Therefore of the 20 or so staff in the Pilgrims’ Office around 90% of them are on temporary contracts and it is a condition of the funding which the Cathedral receives that they must not go beyond the limit of their temporary contracts.
Even though this is the Holy Year, even though the number of pilgrims has more than doubled, even though they have recently opened a brand new 175 albergue, even although the Pope is still to visit at the beginning of November when pilgrim numbers will again peak…in a magnificent demonstration of strategic forward planning almost the entire staff will leave by mid-September to be replaced by a completely new crew.
Some of the current staff have been associated with the office for some years having used gaps in employment as a way of coping with the temporary contract rules. Some have been there for shorter periods. Almost all are well qualified young people who want to stay in Galicia but because of the employment situation cannot easily find permanent employment in their chosen professions.
As a team they get on very well together. Paid little for their labours they turn up and day in and day out to deal with the lines of pilgrims. Most of us pilgrims are friendly, smiling and courteous. Others can be downright cantankerous. The staff do their best to maintain a warm welcome for each. This is challenging when every day they are looking at the same sellos and saying the same things, particularly “all the way walking?” The work is hard and relentless.
Soon they will all be gone. Some have left already as other jobs have appeared. So on behalf of all of us they have served over the last two or three years I thought we should say a collective Thank You.
In this little presentation which follows I apologise that I haven’t captured everyone. I’m aware that at least three are missing…Pili, Fernando and Katusha and probably others but there were limits to the amount of photostalking I could do whilst we were meant to be working. So fellow pilgrims if you have received your Compostela in the last few years join me in thanking some of the Pilgrims’ Office volunteers and staff of this Holy Year.