Unions representing service station workers call for strike action

After seven months of bargaining, talks on the collective agreement for the service station sub-sector recently broke down. The Federation of Allied Industries and the Federation of Textiles-Leather, Chemical and Allied Industries accused the Spanish Confederation of Fuel Vendors and the Spanish Confederation of Service Station Entrepreneurs of obstructing the bargaining process. The trade unions threatened to call a general strike in service stations on 7 and 8 November 2006, which would affect the entire country, with the exception of the Biscay and Guipúzcoa provinces in the Basque region where the agreement has already been signed.

The Federation of Allied Industries affiliated to the General Workers’ Confederation (Federación de Industrias Afines-Unión General de Trabajadores, FIA-UGT) and the Federation of Textiles-Leather, Chemical and Allied Industries affiliated to the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Federación de Industrias Textil-Piel, Químicas y Afines-Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, FITEQA-CC.OO) have accused the Spanish Confederation of Fuel Vendors (Agrupación Española de Vendedores por Menor de Carburantes y Combustibles, AEVECAR) and the Spanish Confederation of Service Station Entrepreneurs (Confederación de empresarios de estaciones de servicio, CEEES) of hindering the bargaining process seven months into negotiations.

As a result, the trade unions considered calling a general strike in service stations on 7 and 8 November 2006. The intention was to hold a strike throughout Spain, with the exception of the Biscay and Guipúzcoa provinces of the Basque region where the agreement has already been signed. Disagreement continued during the last series of talks at the offices of the Multi-Sector Mediation and Arbitration Service (Servicio Interconfederal de Mediación y Arbitraje, SIMA).

Trade union demands

The trade unions that are party to the bargaining have focused their demands on a pay increase and improved workplace safety measures. These demands include:

  • a pay rise equivalent to the increase in the retail price index (RPI) amounting to 0.75 points, compared with a proposed RPI increase of 0.3 points by the employer organisations;
  • an eight-hour reduction in annual working time to reach 1,760 hours;
  • a bonus of €60 euro for working on public holidays, with no compensation for time off. The holiday bonus is currently €13 euro, in addition to eight hours’ time off;
  • regularisation of rotating shifts and a daily compensation of €2 (amounting to an average of €42 per month) for this kind of work. The trade unions claim that, as service stations have also become convenience shops, the duties and working time increase as shifts change since workers now have to check the facilities of the service station and balance the register;
  • a payment of €0.09 per kilometre travelled to the workplace for persons working split shifts;
  • the setting up of an equality commission.

The trade unions assert that service stations fail to meet these demands yet continue to increase their profits. Sales margins on fuel have increased in Spain and are currently higher than the EU average. Fuel sales are continuously increasing, and as proof of the current strength of the industry, the trade unions state that the average number of fuel filling points in Spain is 6.1 per service station, compared with an average of five in the overall EU. Another grievance relates to the abovementioned increase in the duties required of the workers in service stations, who now sell all types of products and offer a variety of customer services. The main reason for the discontent among workers is the relatively low gross wage of €834 per month for those working from Monday to Friday and €890 per month for persons working three shifts including nights, Sundays and public holidays.

Position of employers

AVECAR, which represents about 3,000 service stations, proposes a lower pay rise, claiming that the recent anti-smoking law and the ban on selling alcoholic drinks in service stations after 22.00 have reduced the income of convenience shops by 30%–50%. According to the employer organisations, this situation, combined with the effects of the lack of competition in the sector, has led to a delicate financial situation that will compromise activities in the sector for the next few years. Therefore, the employers propose to maintain or increase the current purchasing power of workers or to increase it slightly, but their proposal is not consistent with the demands of the trade unions that are party to the bargaining. The employer organisations consider that the pay rise offered is sufficient as the increase of the RPI by 0.3 points is higher than that agreed in other industry sectors.

Unions favour further dialogue

The trade unions expected to be contacted again by the employer organisations and stated that they would call off the strike if the employers agreed to resume dialogue. If this could not happen, the strike would affect over 8,000 service stations and 41,500 workers nationwide.

Mari Luz Castellanos, CIREM Foundation

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