Reclaiming workers’ rights after eight years of Spanish austerity

After months of negotiations and mobilisation, Spanish public sector unions have reached a deal with the government that will gradually restore workers’ purchasing power and repair some of the damage caused by years of economic austerity.

The unions launched a campaign last July to defend public services and recover the rights taken from public employees. They focused on three issues: employment and working conditions, wages and collective bargaining. In November and December last year, thousands of trade unionists lobbied the government in Madrid.

The agreement will mean a salary rise over the next three years of at least 6.12%, increasing 8.79% if economic growth and deficit targets are met. There is also an important commitment to lowering temporary employment from 24% to 8% of the workforce. The proportion of women without permanent contracts is 10 percentage points higher than men (28.4% compared to 18.6%).

Restrictions on recruitment will be loosened so that vacant positions can be filled in well-performing administrations or priority areas, with an additional replenishment rate of 5% in local authorities where the population has increased by more than 20% over the last five years. Since 2010, almost 115,000 public sector jobs have been lost. The deal also confirms the right to collective bargaining and continued negotiations at different levels to restore conditions that have been lost. This includes negotiations on working time, with the aim of returning to a 35-hour week, on 100% coverage from the first day in cases of temporary disability, measures for equality and work-life balance, and staff training.

“Public employees, like many other groups, have suffered from pressure, uncertainty and precariousness for at least the last eight years,” said Julio Lacuerda, General Secretary of FeSP-UGT. “The commitment of public employees in our country has made it possible to maintain the quality of our public services in times of crisis and cuts. This agreement recognises this commitment, repairs and repays what was suffered and begins on the path of recovery of purchasing power, it also obliges the central, regional and local governments to negotiate on important issues such as working hours and temporary incapacity.”

“The agreement underlines the unions’ commitment to public services with equal access for all citizens, and the restoration of social dialogue,” said the CC.OO. “We will continue to fight to restore rights and conditions that that have been taken away since the crisis.”