Population: 44 700 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 100 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
As part of a new social dialogue drive over 20 agreements were signed between the government, the employers and trade unions. A highlight was the tripartite agreement on labour market reforms which aims to promote job stability and to reduce the high proportion of temporary contracts, which have undermined trade union rights. The Civil Guard protested about their freedom of association. A union representative was sacked by a hotel chain for speaking out about poor health and safety practices, while the suppliers of one multinational replaced some striking workers. Volkswagen threatened to relocate if strike action continued.
Trade union rights in law
The law recognises freedom of association. All workers can form or join the union of their choice, however, some categories of workers do not have the right to join unions or there are severe restrictions on that right. Members of the armed forces, the Civil Guard, the national police force and some regional police forces are not allowed to join unions, whilst judges, magistrates and prosecutors are not free to join the union of their choice.
The unions are calling on the government to act on their electoral commitment to regulate the rights of the Civil Guard democratically, in particular their right to freedom of association.
The Constitution guarantees the right to collective bargaining and protects the binding power of collective agreements. The law also protects the right to strike.
Trade union rights in practice
Temporary contracts affect collective bargaining: Although Spain has a well established system of collective bargaining it is undermined in practice by the high number of temporary contracts. Various statistics confirm that Spain is the European Union country with the highest percentage of workers on temporary contracts (32.5 per cent in 2004), 63 per cent of whom are immigrants. This clearly influences the working conditions of these workers. Taking advantage of these workers’ uncertainty about their future employment, employers have made them accept working conditions that are not in line with legal standards. Whilst in theory temporary workers’ contracts are covered by a sectoral agreement fixing their terms of employment, in practice collective bargaining is being replaced by individual agreements between managers and employees, who are obliged in practice to accept what they are offered.
Tripartite agreement on labour market reform: A tripartite agreement on labour reform signed in May 2006 should help reduce the still very high proportion of temporary contracts. The reform aims to limit the repeated renewal of employment contracts within the same company by obliging companies to offer a permanent contract to any worker who has had two or more fixed-term contracts and has worked in the same job for over two years within a period of 30 months. It also offers financial incentives to companies to provide permanent employment contracts, including a subsidy for converting temporary contracts into permanent ones. The regulation of contracts and sub-contracts that is included in the agreement covers some key ways of ensuring greater transparency in the provision of information on sub-contracting processes. It increases the scope for legal action by the workers’ legal representatives in all the firms concerned. It facilitates the arrangements for keeping a check on all these ways of decentralising production and guarantees better protection to the workers. Where workers do not have representatives available they will be able to be represented by those at the main company. The agreement also seeks to strengthen labour inspection, as it was felt that one of the biggest problems with temporary contracts was employers’ failure to comply with the law.
Multinationals: Some big multinationals use their position to undermine trade union rights, such as threatening to relocate if they are affected by trade union action.
Violations in 2006
Striking workers dismissed: In January 2006 the strike committee representing transport workers in the Vizcaya region, UGT-Transportes de Vizcaya, filed a complaint to the Labour Inspectorate about the companies LIAN S.L. and PERSONAL DRIVER S.L., which are furniture suppliers for the multinational IKEA, for sacking employees who were on strike and replacing them with new recruits, since this is an illegal practice that violates the right to strike.
Volkswagen threatens strikers with redundancy: The Volkswagen car company threatened on 30 March to move production of the new Polo out of Spain if the long-running strike at its Pamplona factory continued. The strike was over the failure to finalise negotiations on a new collective agreement after 15 months. The principal bones of contention were the proposed cost cutting and flexibility measures proposed by management. The company originally threatened to move production to Bratislava in Slovakia, as it had done previously with its SEAT Ibiza model, although this plan was later rejected. At the end of the year there was still a risk that production could be moved elsewhere.
Union representative sacked for denouncing unsafe working conditions: On 11 December union representative Antonio Garcia Ramos of the hotel workers’ union Federación Estatal de Comercio, Hostelería y Turismo de CC.OO. (FECOHT-CC.OO) for Iberostar hotels in the Canary Islands, was unfairly dismissed from his job with the Spanish hotel and tourism conglomerate Iberostar. Management objected to his public statements denouncing unsafe working conditions for hotel staff and the company's refusal to implement recommendations issued by the health and safety authorities. Iberostar operates hotels in 13 countries.