ILO supports public sector bargaining in Spain

Download article in original language : ES9712236NES.DOC

In late 1997, the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) issued a report favourable to the pay claims of Spanish civil servants.

The civil service federations of the CC.OO and UGT union confederations lodged a complaint with the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) - which monitors the protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights - about the 1997 pay freeze imposed on Spanish civil servants (ES9702201N). Towards the end of 1997, the ILO committee issued a report regretting the fact that there has been no pay increase. It also stresses the need to respect collective agreements as the basis for solid labour relations .

The union complaint argues that the Government has violated the right to collective bargaining of public employees by preventing negotiations on their pay increases in 1997. According to the unions, these rights are protected under ILO Conventions 98, 151 and 154 and are also guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution, the Organic Law of Trade Union Freedom and by Law 9/87, which make it obligatory to negotiate pay. The complaint adds that the pay freeze was a unilateral measure imposed by the current conservative Government and that it violates the provisions of the agreement for the period 1995-7 between the unions and the previous Government, which required it to negotiate with the unions. There was therefore a previous commitment to revise pay according to variations in certain parameters (such as the retail prices index, economic growth, the trade deficit and productivity).

In its counterargument, the Government replies that the decision to freeze pay was taken because of grave political circumstances that were in the general interest, such as the control of budgetary policy as demanded by convergence with the Maastricht criteria for economic convergence in the European Union. It also argues that the rights of Spanish civil servants exceed the minimum levels established by the ILO, even in the area of collective bargaining.

Nevertheless, over the last 10 years public employees have suffered a serious reduction in the purchasing power of their pay. This has been the result of the policies of both socialist and conservative Governments that aimed at restricting government expenditure. The trend is clearly shown by the figures on developments in purchasing power (expressed in percentage points): 1986, -1.8; 1987, 0.4; 1988, -1.8; 1989, -2.9; 1990, -0.5; 1991, 1.7; 1992, 0.4; 1993, -3.0; 1994, -4.3; 1995, -0.8; 199,6 0.3; and up to November 1997, -2.1. In other words, in the 1990s alone, the value of the pay of public employees has fallen by some eight points.

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