26 redundancies at Kraft
THE uncertainty at Mahon's Kraft factory continues. The multinational made the headlines frequently since the beginning of the year, when 14 employees were granted early retirement and a further 24 given temporary unemployment. This was followed by announcements of reduced production and the latest round of redundancies. Kraft explained it has to let 26 of its current 194 workers go in order, ”to adapt the staff to the production volumes currently registered by the plant”. It blamed a weak processed cheese market for the reduction. Both Minorca's Island council and the dairy farming industry have expressed their concern at the news. And for the first time, island councillor Antonia Alles suggested that the council must be prepared for the possible departure of Kraft from the island.

Negotiations have begun over the conditions of redundancy. Kraft hopes that volunteers will be forthcoming, but if this is not the case, it will prepare a 'black list' of workers it may single out. Margot Sastre, El Caserio union delegate, suggested Kraft opts for another phase of temporary unemployment for the 26 workers, to avoid drastic measures such as redundancy, but failing this, the union will press for the best packages possible. Sastre announced its proposal for pay offs of 10'000 euros plus 45 day's salary per year worked for those made redundant, as well as the assurance that no further cuts will be made at the plant in the next two years. But Kraft has rejected such suggestions. The multinational has offered instead, 45 day's pay per year worked (with a maximum) and two month's salary – reminding the union that this package is well above the minimum established by law. Perhaps the most disconcerting news for Kraft workers, is the announcement that the multinational is not prepared to guarantee there will be no further redundancies in the next two years, leaving the window open for future reductions. “We're left anxious,” explained Sastre, ”it's psychological blackmail”. Managers and union representatives will meet with Kraft officials next week to discuss the redundancies.

Employees have announced they are prepared to hold strikes should their demands not be met.
Island council “remodelled” AFTER a wait of more than three weeks, Joana Barcelo, president of Minorca's island council announced on Monday her reshuffled cabinet. The changes came in the wake of the resignation of vice president, Carme Garcia Querol, following differences in interpretation of PSOE politics between Garcia and Barcelo. As was widely expected, several positions were affected. To complicate matters further, Garcia resigned in her post as vice president, but did not tender her resignation as a member of the island council. Garcia now continues in the unusual position of a council member with no specific role, but still holding the ability to cast votes. Barcelo, it appears, is hoping for Garcia's resignation on the council too. But Garcia's resignation would mean her place automatically passes to the next elected politician on the PSOE lists – Felix Fernandez – ironically, a strong supporter of Garcia. Barcelo also hopes Fernandez would renounce his right to take up a place on the island council and has ignored him in the reshuffle. Catalina Florit, from Alaior's town hall, will take on Garcia's role as head of General Services, with Damia Borras taking on the vice presidency. Borras will continue in his role as transport councillor. Angela Caules is to take on the new role of second vice presidency, while Fina Casals saw her role – and department – changed. Casals now heads up the newly–named Environmental Management and Biosphere Reserve department. But the biggest surprise came with the inclusion of Marc Pons in Barcelo's new team. Pons, who was recently named government delegate and Minorca's PSOE general secretary, will take charge of Minorca's Town and Country planning – a post that will oblige him to leave his role as government delegate. Three of the newly–formed council are non–elected politicians, consequently having no power to vote, Barcelo needs the resignations of Garcia and Fernandez to shift the balance of (voting) power to her more loyal supporters. The new positions will be officially taken on Thursday, while the vacancy of government delegate has still to be filled.

The PP voiced harsh criticism, assuring that even despite the reshuffle, Barcelo's problems were far from over. Spokesperson, Jose Segui, believes the current changes, “don't solve the problems on the council”. Expressing their concern for the upheaval, Juan Manuel Lafuente president of the PP in Minorca accused Barcelo of, ”taking away power from those democratically elected and giving it to those not elected”.

International car free day
MAHON is one of thousands of European towns participating in today's European Car Free Day. But there will be no Mahon streets closed to traffic and the authorities have been reluctant to take too many steps because, ”from experience, it just isn't possible”, explained Margarita Petrus from the town hall. This year's theme is one of safe streets for children, so Mahon's town hall has signed an agreement with the road safety institute within Mapfre. Together through children's workshops they hope to encourage good road safety habits from a young age. Petrus emphasised that the use of cars is an issue that needs attention more than just one day a year. The town hall has established a series of guidelines – having discussed the main problems with local residents in workshops. Key resident demands include more car parks (two are under construction), pedestrian only access to more parts of the town centre and increased use of public transport. For the latter, improvements to the bus station – currently being finalised – are, “fundamental”, says Petrus.

Cultural exchange
THE mayor of Es Mercadal, Ramon Orfila, and a representative from Barcelona's town hall, Catalina Carreras, have signed an agreement to encourage cultural interaction. The aim is to strengthen relations and build cultural exchanges between the town and the city. Orfila explained that cultural exchanges were already happening – in the town's fiestas, Barcelonan magician, Magic Andreu, participated in Es Mercadal, while in Barcelona's Merce fiestas on September 23, the Menorcan group S'Albaida, will perform. During the fiestas, part of Barcelona's old city will be reserved for the Balearics, with cultural, artesan and gastronomic offerings from the islands. Next year, Joan Clos – Barcelona's mayor – will give a speech to market the opening of Fornells' fiestas. ”We're very proud he has accepted our invitation”, admitted district mayor, Rosa Pallas. Both Orfila and Carreras hope through this agreement greater links will be forged between Es Mercadal and the Catalan capital.

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