Prison officers strike

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In July 1999, in an unusual event, Spanish prison officers went on strike to demand "better wages, an increase in staffing and more respect".

In early July 1999, prison officers at two prisons in the Cádiz area (Port 1 and Port 2) called a surprise strike, without provision of minimum services, to demand the same wages and working conditions as their colleagues at prisons in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarre. According to the prison officers, overcrowding and the lack of workshops and facilities for inmates have considerably increased the intensity of their work. The government declared the strike illegal and violent confrontations took place between the strikers and the police. Meanwhile, the prisons were controlled by the police and by trainee prison officers.

In the following days the protest spread to Huelva and Valencia, where great emphasis was placed on increasing workforce levels. The trade unions operating in the sector - UGT, CSI-CSIF and ACAIP- led the protest, although daily decisions were made at a workers' assembly.

On 14 July, the trade unions succeeded in calling a strike at most prisons in Spain (half according to the government), including some Basque prisons. In addition to the economic demands and the call for more staff, the prison officers demanded that the government and the police treat them with the respect that all workers deserve, and that they be allowed to negotiate.

The first round of negotiations between the government and the trade unions was expected to take place in late July. The government is prepared to increase the number of prison officers and their wages slightly, but not to the level requested by the strikers. The officers said that they were returning to work, but reserved the possibility of going on strike again.

Meanwhile, a report by a group of magistrates has shown that Spain has the highest prison population in Europe, and that some prisons are threatened with collapse. Overcrowding makes it impossible to provide the "individualised treatment" guaranteed by the Constitution.

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