Saturday, January 12, 2013

Seasonal accommodation scandal

As predicted the snow came yesterday, and by the evening we had 50cm of fresh cold powder around the chalet, more at the top. This season is beginning to look like a 'classic', with regular decent snowfalls and cold temperatures interspersed with some lovely sunny days. It's actually been quite a sunny today, but the snow's returning this evening and its set to continue, on and off, all week.

We finally said до свидания  to our Russian guests this morning. Last night developed into quite a party, with much mutual toasting and speech-making. They are so determined to come back for Christmas and New Year next season that some of the them have left their equipment for us to store! I'm already looking forward to seeing them all again.

Empty for 3 years!
The issue of accommodation for seasonal workers is turning into quite a scandal. In an earlier blog I suggested  that the commune of Bourg St Maurice should make available some of the huge amount of private and communal accommodation that is sitting unused in the town and in the resorts.

Well, incredibly, it seems the mayor is actually taking the opposite approach: a group of seasonal workers who are squatting in an empty block of 200 municipal apartments at Arc 1800 (Le foyer des Chardons) are soon going to be moved on by the police, despite the building being empty for the last 3 years.  What's more, on top of closing the 'official' saisonniers site near the canoe centre (apparently because it wasn't big enough and was getting too crowded!)  the municipality has increased the fine for 'illegal camping' from €17 to €35 euros per night.

The official line is that campers have to use the tourist camp-sites, but as one saisionaire points out in today's Le Dauphiné, the charges for 2 people amount to over €600 euros a month, which may be cheaper than an apartment (at around €850 for 14m2) but still represents a large portion of a monthly SMIC wage. The paper also points out that at least 20% of 3,500 advertised seasonal jobs don't include any kind of accommodation, and the three official season worker hostels are completely full.

So new illegal encampents have sprung up by the swimming pool, in McDonald's carpark and once again at the popular, but exposed and windswept, site at Plan Devin (Arc 1600).

Let's hope it doesn't take another tragedy before the Mde le Maire and the commune addresses this issue in a sensible and sustainable way, rather than pandering to protocol and prejudice.

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