Education International
Education International

Spain: Workers’ rights under attack

published 29 March 2012 updated 3 April 2012

Spanish unions have joined forces to support the country's largest ever general strike on 29 March. EI members, FETE-UGT, F.E.CC.OO. and FE-STES, are united in declaring that teachers will not stand by as the Government jeopardises basic workers’ rights and social dialogue through its latest labour reform legislation.

Under the slogan, “ Quieren acabar con todo” (They want to finish with everything), trade unions are protesting against the massive Government attack on public services, including education, as well as on social rights which it justifies because of the economic crisis.

Damaging labour reform

A controversial labour reform law seriously undermining collective bargaining agreementswas imposed by a decree passed on 11 February,without negotiation with trade unions. Employers can now unilaterally change hours of work, conditions, location of workers, and wage structures.

The decree also allows any company where profits have decreased by three quarters and experiencing actual or projected losses, to lawfully dismiss workers with a drastically reduced level of compensation pay. This applies to almost all companies in Spain.

It also eliminates additional protection which public sector workers had against unjustified termination of their employment.

24% unemployment

Trade unions believe that this move is counter-productive in trying to resolve the country’s debt crisis, especially against the current economic background. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe at 24% and youth unemployment has hit 50%. Over 5 million people are currently out of work and 60% of salaried workers earn less than €1,000 a month.

Moreover, under pressure from the European Union and banks, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, will announce on 30 March a cut of up to €40 billion in the country's budget.

Following a similar situation to Greece and Portugal, Spain was told by the European Commission to lower its budget deficit to 5.3% of GDP this year, despite the tax increases and spending cuts of €15 billion inflicted on the population last year.

Public education collapse

According to the Spanish unions, these cuts are short-sighted and will lead to the eventual collapse of public education and other public services.

EI has called upon all member unions to support the Spanish education unions in seeking to maintain quality public services and protest against the curtailment of trade union rights.