Civil servants hold 24-hour general strike
On 14 December 2000, civil servants all over Spain held a 24-hour strike in protest against their loss of purchasing power, the increase in temporary employment and the absence of collective bargaining in the civil service.
In October 2000, after an informative interview with trade unions, the government stated that it considered "negotiations" over the employment and working conditions of civil servants for 2001 to be closed (ES0010214N). 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. Following the government's announcement, the majority civil service union federations announced mobilisations over: a wage increase (of 2%) that represented a loss of purchasing power; a policy on filling vacancies that has led to an increase in temporary employment in the public administration; and the government's perceived continuing refusal to enter into collective bargaining.
In response to the government's refusal to make concessions, in November and December 2000 mobilisations were called by the majority civil service unions - the Trade Union Confederation of Workers Commission (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) and the General Workers Union (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT), later followed by the Galician Trade Union Confederation (Confederación Intersindical Galega, CIG), the Independent Trade Union Confederation of Public Servants (Confederación Sindical Indpendiente de Funcionarios, CSI-CSIF), the Unified Police Trade Union (Sindicato Unificado de Policia, SUP), the Federal Police Union (Unión Federal de Policia, UFP), the ANPE teachers' union and the Teaching Workers' Union (Sindicatos de Trabajadores de la Enseñanza, STE). There were demonstrations of union representatives in front of public administration offices (the government headquarters in the provincial capitals, and the Ministries of Public Administration and of the Economy in Madrid). A petition with almost 900,000 workers' signatures was handed in to parliament and to representatives of various political parties, with whom an information meeting was held in the Senate. The spokespersons of the opposition parliamentary groups expressed their support for the public employees.
In response, representatives of the Ministry of Public Administration called a meeting of the General Civil Service Commission and of three working parties to debate specific aspects separately (wages, employment and geographic mobility). These meetings failed because both parties maintained their positions. According to the trade unions, the meetings were again merely informative.
Due to the failure of the meetings, the union mobilisations culminated in a 24-hour general strike on 14 December 2000, called by the abovementioned trade unions, which jointly represent 90% of the workers in the civil service. Prior to the strike, there was trade union discontent over the government's requirements for the minimum services levels to be observed during the dispute, which meant that about 40% of the 2 million workers called on to strike were forced to work. As usual, there were great variations in the estimates of the proportion of workers who went on strike made by the government (11%) and the trade unions (73%). More independent sources estimate that 35%-45% of the workers followed the strike, although the impact varied according to regions and subsectors.
For the trade unions, the December strike is not the end of the conflict. If the government maintains its perceived position of fostering unstable employment and labour conditions, the mobilisations will continue.