Spanish public sector workers bear the brunt of austerity

Between 2009 and 2016, different governments in Spain have transferred most of the burden of cuts in public spending to the purses of public employees, says the Federation of Public Services employees (FeSP) – part of ETUC affiliate UGT (General Workers’ Union of Spain).

Wrapped in the flag of austerity, they have inflicted an unprecedented series of blows on the salary conditions and purchasing power of public employees, modifying (unilaterally restricting!) the legal framework for collective bargaining by public employees so as to carry out their cuts and salary freezes without restraint.

One example is the Central Government Administration (CGA). Analysis of data from the Ministry of Finance (State of Budgeting and Expenditure / General Directorate of Personnel Costs and Public Pensions) shows that the wage bill of public employees of CGA has fallen drastically from 2009 to 2016 (last published data).

Indeed, if we analyse the wage bill of the six most representative groups in the CGA (CGA officials themselves, autonomous organisations/OO.AA., social security/S.S., administration of justice/AA, researchers in the Spanish National Research Council/CSIC, and labour staff of the CGA), data show a worrying reduction of 9.1%, as itemised in this table:

CGA PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WAGE BILL

GROUP

2009

2016

DIFFERENCE

CGA

3,553,700,962.67

3,247,154,660.43

-306,546,302.24

OO.AA.

972,606,872.28

977,931,026.37

5,324,154.09

S.S.

915,179,684.82

851,224,598.25

-63,955,086.57

AA. Justice

527,173,971.26

527,023,605.27

-150,365.99

Researcher

CSIC

171,785,779.04

161,926,838.82

-9,858,940.22

Labour staff CGA

1,418,696,427.36

1,104,499,497.09

-314,196,930.27

TOTAL

7,559,143,697.43

6,869,760,226.23

-689,383,471.20

SOURCE: Own calculation, based on data provided by the General Directorate of Personnel Costs and Public Pensions (Ministry of Finance).

The reasons?  Well, in addition to the measures already mentioned (breaches, cuts and freezes), can be added reductions in staff; lower salary levels (below 50% EU net average salary); limited professional career progression; cuts in research, development and innovation; and an increase in voluntary retirements from 3,429 in 2009 to 15,470 in 2016.

But, equally worrying, is the 41.9% increase in the salaries of the CGA’s management staff over the same period. We consider this difference to be discriminatory and unfair, since it is the public employees who have managed, guaranteed and maintained the provision and quality of the most essential public services during the crisis, and not the staff with a political and bureaucratic profile, hired discretionally by the current government, whose effectiveness, in most cases, leaves a lot to be desired.

The reasons behind this figure are obscure, but we estimate that they are linked to a series of substantial salary increases outside the freezes, cuts and meagre increases in recent years for other public employees.

WAGE BILL SENIOR MANAGEMENT (CGA)

2009

2016

DIFFERENCE

739,288.33

1,049,367.81

310,079.48

SOURCE: Own calculation, based on the data provided by the General Directorate of Personnel Costs and Public Pensions (Ministry of Finance).

In our opinion, this shows that the fine words the government has addressed to its public employees in recent months are pure pretence. They have not been accompanied by action to correct its salary policy, through the setting of increases that:

  • compensate for the loss in purchasing power throughout all these years, including 2017, in which the increase of 1% will almost certainly be below the real CPI (Consumer Price Index).
  • prevent the generation of new losses, through guarantee clauses that protect purchasing power.

In short, public employees of the CGA continue to hope that the apparent recovery from the crisis, with GDP growth of close to 3%, will have an impact on their socio-economic and professional conditions.

If there are good intentions, there are sufficient economic and legal margins to make salary improvements.

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