The rise of Pakistani grocery stores places them in the spotlight

The rise of Pakistani grocery stores places them in the spotlight

The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defines badulaque as “shaving composed of several ingredients that were used in another time”, “chanfaina, stew of bofes or livianos” and “foolish, inconsistent person”. Authors such as Benito Pérez Galdós and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán made good use of the third acceptance, but it was Carlos Revilla , first director of the Spanish dubbing of The Simpsons , who popularized the term. It was fixed in the first meanings of the word to baptize like ” badulaque ” the grocery store of Apu, the Indian immigrant of the series.

For a while now, the Pakistani grocery stores , the badulaques, proliferate on any street in Barcelona and the metropolitan area. Its implementation has already exceeded many neighborhoods such as Raval, Vila de Gràcia or Sant Antoni. For most of Barcelona, ​​these establishments are all advantages , by proximity, by their non-stop schedules and because it is possible to find almost everything necessary at odd hours.

There are few who also wonder if these schedules are legal and if the stores conform to the regulations that regulate the rest of establishments. The Pakistani grocery stores are in the spotlight.

In the absence of official data, the latest estimates made by the economic observatory Eixos at the end of last year numbered more than 1,100 businesses of this type existing in the city. Like the rest of establishments, these stores are subject to periodic inspections of Labor, Social Security, Health, the Urban Police and the National Police. Almost no complaints against them, but even yes, as with the rest of the premises, the Inspection of Labor and Social Security visits them periodically.

It is difficult to prove if the working hours in these grocery stores are not met

It is difficult to prove if the working hours in these grocery stores are not met

There are suspicions, more than evident, that employees fail to comply with work schedules , but it is very difficult to prove it. This is explained by a person in charge of the National Police Corps. The Pakistani is a reserved collective, very closed and in which its members rarely, if ever, file a complaint against another compatriot.

Each time a labor inspector visits one of these grocery stores , accompanied by the National Police or the Urban Police, his workers are limited to ensuring that they comply with the schedule set by their work contract. And, in the absence of complaint and other elements that indicate that a serious situation occurs, it is unthinkable that an inspector is responsible for checking if that employee is at the front of the store the hours that your contract says or many more. What inspectors and police officers always notice is that the owner is never in the store. “Never”, reiterates the national police.

There are almost never owners of a single grocery store. The stores belong to a couple of partners that have their name, usually six or seven establishments. Only men work and they are all compatriots . Usually only the clerk who is in the cash register has a work contract and documentation in order, although there are always three people in the store.

The second man says he is a friend of the person in charge of the box and, when the inspectors ask him, he always replies that he is there ” lending a hand “. In addition, there is a third man at the door, next to the street. “We have never quite understood your mission, but the grocery store that does not have a Pakistani at the door has the trade completely open, without doors, and with the cash register located in a way that allows the employee to look towards the street”, Explain.

The ‘badulaques’ do not violate commercial hours


It is not true that these establishments fail to comply with commercial hours, says a person in charge of the Urban Police. But there is a feeling among some neighbors that this small place is always open, get off at the time you go down to the street, and that there is always the same person attending the box. The law of schedules allows greater flexibility from a few square meters and these stores have become strong precisely in the hours in which the increasingly less traditional trade or supermarkets close doors.

The premises of less than 150 m2 have open hours. This general ignorance provokes, explains a head of the Mossos, that some people distrust or distrust what happens in these stores. There are districts of the city with a large presence of these businesses in which several associations of merchants and neighbors show their misgivings every time the security desk is held. “That store has been investigated under the counter and is more in order than many of the shops apparently more legal than the Pakistani. Labels in Catalan as the norm marks and watches very much the sale of alcohol or tobacco to minors, or after hours, “says the police.

There is much mystery about how many of these grocery stores can survive. The police suspect, and some investigation has confirmed, that all workers arrive in Spain with job offers and that, once here, they pay their debt for the procedures working the first months in exchange for receiving only a survival wage. Another aspect common to all of them is that they are made with the disused premises with cash. “They do not ask for loans, they do not mortgage themselves, they never visit a bank. Like the Chinese community, they get the money through personal loans, “says the national police.

The presence of women is scarce. Not so long ago, nine out of ten Pakistanis registered in Barcelona were men. “For years, the first ones arrived in Ciutat Vella, but the truth is that it is very difficult to see them,” says one urbanist. The national police assure that lately a new tendency is detected: many Pakistanis create affective ties, even relatives, with Romanian women.

Terrassa, Sabadell and Rubí offer mortgage intermediation to avoid evictions

 Sabadell and Rubí offer mortgage intermediation to avoid evictions

Terrassa launched in January the first Office of Mortgage Intermediation in the state, thus opening the ban for the municipalities to enter a field that until now watched from a distance. The creation of this new service responds to a reality that has multiplied its visibility since the beginning of the crisis. According to the municipality councilor Lluisa Melgares, between 2008 and 2010 there were 3,000 evictions in the city, a figure that “has gone to more.” The reception of the office also shows the problem: in almost three months of activity 348 lawsuits have been attended. Terrassa became the pioneer of a model that some consistories look at carefully and others have already assimilated.

“The problem we find is the inheritance of the past, when we hired mortgages without having or understanding all the necessary information. Now, many neighbors are without floor and with a debt for the old value of housing, “explains Melgares. According to the council, the City Council’s decision to intervene in mortgage disputes responds to the “concern to see how your population is losing their homes.” And the key concept is to intermediate, not to mediate, since the consistory understands that it is not a negotiation between two equal parts, but the bank starts from a position of advantage over the owner.

The Mortgage Intermediation Office of Terrassa offers two levels of attention; the first, the collection of information to address the case, and the second, the legal. The initial intention of the City Council was to create a service in direct link with the banks, to which they refused. “In the end we got the collaboration with the Col·legi d’Advocats, who lend us their dependencies and give us their advice,” says Melgares. The councilor explains another advantage of this agreement, and is that, he explains, “people prefer to approach the school than Social Services, as it happened before.”

According to Melgares, there are two profiles of applicants for advice

According to Melgares, there are two profiles of applicants for advice

“On the one hand there are those who have seen their income drop and need to be refinanced, and on the other hand there are those who will never again be able to pay 800 euros a month for a house, and who are the majority”. It is in these cases where the City Council becomes important and proposes the negotiation to the bank. To date, 141 interviews have been arranged between the parties and 36 cases have been closed, not always positive. “There are cases in which there is no way to find the person in charge of the entity, or in which the bank does not accept new proposals or that there is an excess of debt.” Even so, in cases of success, the suspension of eviction orders, refinancing agreements, changes in ownership by social rent, and even dations in payment have been achieved.

But the determining point of the service is the willingness of the banks to negotiate. In this sense, the short experience suggests that having the City Council at the negotiating table opens the doors. “What we try from the office is to avoid a judicial process that is also harmful to banks, since they invest money they do not recover,” says Melgares. Not only that, banks have a real estate backpack with no exit to which they can not add more homes, so they are also an interested party in the negotiation. “The banks are beginning to understand that they are more willing to offer their empty apartments in cheap rents than to try to sell them because they will never place them; at present we meet every month and we are trying to move forward to make a project of social floors with some of these vacant homes “.

The City Council of Terrassa is in negotiations with the Col·legi d’Advocats to make the Intermediation Office grow from the ten cases that are attended weekly to the present until the age of sixteen.

A model imitated
The operation of the Terrassa office has aroused the interest of populations such as Cerdanyola and even Madrid, and has also created the first duplicities. This is the case of Rubí, who five weeks ago opened his own Mortgage Intermediation Office, following the Terrasse model. The project is part of the motion passed in the municipal plenary session in November, which called for initiatives to assist residents with difficulties in paying their mortgages.

The consistory does not enter to give data on the number of people with mortgage problems, since it considers that the figures handled by the Platform of Affected by Mortgage (PAH) does not correspond to the total number of cases and because banks reserve the information . As a guide, the coordinator of Social Policies and Citizenship of the municipality, José Luís Ariño, points out that the main demand of the last five years in Social Services has been housing. “About four out of ten requests are for these cases, some for payment problems and others directly for lack of home.”

Faced with this situation, the City Council has designed two lines of action; the first, the office itself, and the second, a table with the banking entities of the city in which the intermediation service is presented. “What we seek is to open spaces for dialogue and solutions for both parties; what we do not assume is the debt … we only have packages of economic aid for cases of urgency, “says Ariño.

So far, the Rubin service has served about ninety families, and negotiations are taking place with banking entities that go in the same direction as in the case of Terrassa. Still, Ariño believes that people should know when to go to the office. “Ideally, they should come as soon as possible, before the situation is really very complicated and this is not happening.” According to the coordinator, 60% of the petitions come with a process of eviction in progress with the legal complications involved.

Ariño agrees with Melgares on the added value of having the municipality at the negotiating table, especially in regard to the deal. “In principle, entities have by protocol to contact the owner when the first problems in the payment, but the truth is that with us through the reception is more attentive and careful.”

The model followed by Sabadell is something different. The problem exists, since according to the local PAH each week between five and ten owners attend, but there is no Intermediation Office as such. In this case, the city is committed to the Sabadell Habitatge, a service that unifies all issues related to housing, from registration to social services. “The intention is to unite in an office the services of the different regidurías”, indicates the deputy mayor of Urbanism and Public Spaces, Joan Manau.

In Sabadell, the reference to know the situation is the Ofideute, the intermediation service that imitates and completes the model created by the Generalitat in 2009. Only in the first quarter of 2012 228 people have come to the service, 68 since it is underway the Sabadell Habitatge. The big difference with the offices of Terrassa and Rubí is that, apart from the negotiation with the bank, the economic education of the owners is discussed. “We understand that behind the cases of evictions there are some economic habits to correct and we try to educate the owners to change their behavior,” says Manau. In order to do so, the City Council has reached agreements with entities such as Cáritas or Creu Roja, which deal with the formation of families in the domestic economy.

Entering in the pure negotiation with the bank, Sabadell is one of the first populations that decided to intervene, already in 2011. In this sense, Manau also considers that there has been a change in the attitude of the banks. “They confess that they are the first ones interested in avoiding evictions, because they find themselves as owners of more homes with which they do not know what to do anymore.”