Disagreement over civil service pay and conditions

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In September 2000, the Spanish government convened a meeting of the General Civil Service Commission, the joint body which negotiates civil servants' pay and conditions. The meeting coincided with the cabinet meeting to set the national budget for 2001, in which civil service pay is fixed. Trade unions accused the government of thus excluding real negotiations and instead merely conducting a "courtesy interview". The government considers the talks closed, but the unions are planning mobilisations.

The pay and conditions of Spanish civil servants are negotiated in the General Civil Service Commission (Mesa General de la Función Pública) - made up of representatives of civil servants' trade unions and the Ministry of the Public Administration- and fixed in the general state budget. Collective bargaining in the government administration sector has been formally recognised since 1987, though its development was initially limited because agreements had to be submitted to the Council of Ministers and then follow a series of regulatory steps through parliament before they became effective. This paralysed many of the agreements that were reached. The Basic Statute of the Civil Service signed in 1998 (ES9803143F) gives far clearer recognition to collective bargaining. In accordance with the new regulations, the government is bound to comply with the agreements that it reaches with the unions.

On 19 September 2000, as has become habitual, the government called a meeting of the General Civil Service Commission which coincided with the meeting of the Council of Ministers for the approval of the state budget for 2001 and the law setting out the budget's accompanying measures. The trade unions feel that this leaves them little room for bargaining to improve their working conditions, and that the government is reluctant to negotiate and reach a consensus, making it difficult to reach agreements.

The subjects on the unions' agenda at the September meeting were the same as in previous years and the government once again seemed reluctant to negotiate on them (ES9911160N). The civil servants' trade unions affiliated to the Trade Union Confederation of Workers' Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) and the General Workers' Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) - FSAP and FSP respectively - presented a joint platform in which they again demanded the promotion of employment stability and the recovery of lost purchasing power. In 1999, the number of temporary jobs increased by 22,400, which represents a 36.9% increase in temporary employment in the civil service. To deal with this situation, the unions have called for the abolition of the "renewal tax", which since 1997 has meant that 25% of vacancies are not filled and is a major factor in the increasing instability of civil service employment. Further, they call for a wage increase to compensate for the difference between the actual increase in the real retail prices index (RPI) in 2000 and the forecasts (1.6%), plus one percentage point to compensate for the wage sacrifices said to have been made by public employees in the last few years and allow them to share the benefits of the current economic growth in Spain. They also seek the inclusion of a wage revision clause to deal with differences between the real RPI for 2001 and the forecasts, in order to put an end to the loss of purchasing power that public employees have suffered for many years.

The government's position was also similar to that of previous years. It offered a 2% wage increase for civil servants (the RPI forecast for 2001) and the maintenance of the renewal tax for vacancies. It offered insufficient funds to cover the unions' demands, having suffered, according to trade union calculations, a fall in revenue of ESP 800 billion due to the tax reform of 1999 (ES9812290F). The government considers the "negotiations" to be closed after the meeting, which was described by the unions as a "courtesy interview". For the unions, the negotiations had hardly begun.

In response to this situation, the majority civil service trade union federations have called mobilisations, but at the moment they have agreed only to call workplace mass meetings to denounce the government's "closed position", which they consider as a provocation. Trade union leaders are calling for a new General Civil Service Commission to be organised in order to enter into proper negotiations.

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