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Lifeguards call protest march.

Residents and tourists in Tenerife are being called on to press for a solution to a long-running problem said to be bringing “shame” to the island.

One year on from going on strike over receiving no pay, the controversy over the lifeguards’ dispute in Arona shows no signs of abating. Websites, blogs, YouTube and Twitter have been inundated with messages of support and it is probably the most talked about subject in the south and has even spread to the UK.

Now, the lifeguards or “socorristas” are publicly saying enough is enough. They have organised a mass protest rally for 5pm on Sunday, August 25th and a huge crowd with banners, drums and whistles is expected to march across the Los Cristianos beaches.

“It’s time to fix the problem. Arona does not deserve this,” they say. “One year without pay, one of errors.”

This month marks the first anniversary of their strike action, during which time they have manned a protest station at Las Vistas beach and spoken to thousands of holiday-makers. Despite receiving no pay, they are continuing to provide a minimum service for the safety of beach users. Many tourists have returned to Tenerife several times since August 2012 and are amazed to see no change to the stalemate. British people have been particularly supportive.

The lifeguards should have been paid by the company which used to hold the concession awarded by Arona Council but it failed to do so and no other firm will take the debt on for back salaries.

The socorristas say they have a written statement from the Spanish Government proving that Arona Council (or definitely the Canary Islands) is responsible for paying the crew of 17 their back-pay and assuming responsibility for the service.

There is some indication from environmental councillor, Antonio Sosa that the council will address the debt of the previous contractor subject to a final judgement although there has been no official confirmation of this. The total amount will run into six figures. Even if Arona Council is held responsible, getting the money paid out swiftly could be another battle.

In any event, apart from the protest march, the lifeguards say their next step would be to “knock on the door” of Canary president, Paulino Rivero.

Amongst all the blogs and Facebook comments are criticisms of Arona Council for letting it get to this stage and a general feeling that it is doing nothing to enhance the image of Tenerife. Antonio Sosa has come in for particular attention, with “Wanted” posters going up with his picture on them. His face has even been put on to an octopus, said to be “terrorising the beaches” and with the slogan of “political shame”.

There has also been an online debate about well-wishers giving money or food to the strikers, with some alleging this is “begging” and illegal. The lifeguards have made it clear that giving donations is within the law during an indefinite strike.

More than 7,000 flyers have been distributed about the protest march on August 25th. The 5pm start is from Los Cristianos beach (the one by the harbour) and then on to Las Vistas and finally to the beach at El Camisón.