3 – Regular violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliates in Spain are the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO.), the Euskal Sindikatua ELA (ELA), the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), and the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO).

Spain ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1977 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1977.

In practice

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Alimerka’s refusal to negotiate leads unions to call strike20-12-2019

After two years of negotiations, the CCOO, the UGT and the USO denounced Alimerka’s intransigence on issues such as the regulation of breaks and the establishment of a system of promotions that would progressively increase workers’ salaries in line with their seniority at the company. Representatives from Alimerka argued that the system would mean losses for the company within four years. The unions responded to the persistent refusal to negotiate on these two points by calling a strike for 21 to 31 December.

Labour Ministry announces ten per cent increase in companies opting out of and renegotiating collective agreements14-12-2019

The general secretary of the CCOO denounced the existence of fraudulent practices in the collective agreement renegotiations and ‘opt-outs’ authorised since the passing of the 2013 labour reform, which enables companies in recession, subject to certain provisos, to opt out of and renegotiate collective agreements. The Labour Ministry meanwhile announced a recent increase of over ten per cent in the number of companies taking advantage of the provision. The irregularities found range from the unlawful persuasion of negotiators to the unilateral appointment of workers’ representatives. The CCOO announced the publication of a study reporting on cases of such fraud and irregularities, and is calling for the amendment of the corresponding provisions in the labour reform.

Valladolid-based company fined for violating right to strike28-09-2019

The Iveco plant in Valladolid sabotaged the stoppage staged by workers during the 8 March general strike by allocating workers who had not joined the strike with tasks that did not correspond to them. The judge who fined the company recalled that workers choosing not to follow a call to strike cannot be required to perform the duties of those who decide to exercise their right to protest.

National spokesperson of Andalusian workers’ union, SAT, arrested in Nijar during strike against anti-union repression 12-09-2019

On day thirteen of a strike by workers at JVF Invernatur, Civil Guard police officers arrested union leader Oscar Reina, reportedly on grounds that he was “wanted” for contempt of court. The stoppage had been called over the failure to comply with the collective agreement and the anti-union repression at the company.

Trade unions denounce Indra Sistemas for breach of agreement13-05-2019

Trade unions such as the CCOO, the UGT, the USO and the CGT denounced that, after almost a year of negotiations with the management, Indra Sistemas failed to honour a preliminary agreement reached during the collective bargaining process regarding breaks during the continuous working day. The unions called on the workers from the company’s transport and defence units to mobilise. The company, for its part, argued that a consensus had been reached on six of the seven points and the mobilisation was therefore unwarranted.

Trade union dismissals at Abengoa, Mecanor, Nissan and Bimbo03-09-2018

In March 2017, 35 of the 36 workers’ representatives at three of the ABENGOA multinational group subsidiaries (Abeinsa, Abengoa Solar and Abengoa Research) were dismissed or included in the ERTE provisional employment restructuring procedure. The members of the UGT works council at the company denounced the situation, in March 2017, as a breach of the legislation providing workers’ representatives with special protection against such measures. In addition, the UGT representatives at the aforementioned ABENGOA subsidiaries denounced that the company imposed ERE and ERTE restructuring procedures, coercing and threatening the workers.
Five members were also dismissed at Mecanor and Nissan Motor Ibérica, in Cantabria.
The management at the Spanish subsidiary of the multinational Bimbo engages in anti-union practices, violating fundamental trade union rights, intimidating, threatening, dismissing and pressurising the representatives of the majority trade unions UGT and CC.OO to force them to sign an agreement to increase working time to a 60-hour week.

Violations of the right to strike 10-02-2018

The following violations of the right to strike were recorded during 2017-2018:
• During the private security workers strike called by the UGT at the airports of La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, companies Eulen and Prosegur requested minimum services of between 95% and 100%, which the workers denounced as a way of restricting the right to strike.
• The strike committee representing judicial administration staff in Galicia denounced, in January 2018, that the Directorate General of Justice of the regional government, Xunta de Galicia, ordered that limits be placed on the granting of holidays and personal leave days during the month of February, claiming that the order was justified by the need to ensure minimum services during the indefinite strike due to start on 7 February. The strike committee denounced the move, considering it a restriction on the right to strike.
• During the hospitality workers’ strike called by the UGT and CC.OO at all airports throughout Spain, members of the strike committee at Palma de Mallorca airport reported that security forces blocked the committee members’ access to the airport, preventing them from checking on the minimum services that had been imposed. The trade unions had previously denounced the absurdity of imposing minimum services on cafeteria staff, given that it is not an essential service.
• During the workers’ strike at El Prat airport in Barcelona, the government decided that state security agents from the Guardia Civil should take on the private security checks and duties at the security checkpoints controlling access to the boarding areas, which is where the employees staging the strike work. The UGT denounced this measure as a way of minimising the strike, given that the workers on strike were being replaced.
• On 16 August 2017, in the absence of an agreement between the trade unions and the private security firms after several days of strike action, the government ruled that compulsory arbitration should be launched to resolve the dispute between the firms and their employees, who were calling for improvements in their precarious working conditions.
• Strategies are also often used to undermine demonstrations, such as the imposition of times and routes designed to make them less viable or visible.

Interference in the right to collective bargaining in the public sector 30-11-2017

In 2017, the government once again imposed a maximum limit of 1% on the pay negotiations of public employees, based on the law passed in 2015. The measure not only affected the trade unions’ pay negotiations for public servants but also those held for workers without public servant status, employed in public companies. The intervention of the Follow-up Committee for Collective Bargaining in Public Companies constitutes a serious obstacle to the normal exercise of the right to collective bargaining.

Interference in trade union activities in the public sector 20-10-2017

Royal Decree Law 20/2012, since brought into effect in 2012, has been limiting the trade union rights of public servants and public sector company workers. The decree has reduced the trade union credits and leave set out in agreements seeking to improve on the terms of the legislation in place, including paid leave for trade union work, representation duties, the appointment of trade union representatives and other trade union rights.
During the month of September 2017, the four trade unions with majority representation among workers at Madrid City Council reached an agreement with the municipal government authorities to provide contract workers with the same conditions as public servants. The measure was benefitting 4,200 workers, but the central government’s representation in Madrid appealed against the agreement in court, which finally led to its suspension, on the grounds that the cost of the terms agreed on did not comply with the provisions of the 2017 Budget Law.

Criminalisation of the right to strike 09-06-2017

Since the approval, in July 2015, of the public security law, thousands of people have been detained and fined under the provisions of what has been dubbed the ‘gag law’. Organisations such as Amnesty International have confirmed that the law is affecting rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and information. Almost 200,000 fines have been issued since the law was passed, 34,000 of which were linked to the exercise of these fundamental freedoms.
During recent years, almost 300 workers have been arrested and prosecuted for exercising the right to strike. A number of these trials were held during 2017, after unjustified delays, in excess of the limits set by the European Convention on Human Rights, creating immense concern and anxiety over the plight of these workers and representatives. A number of the trade unionists prosecuted were convicted under Article 315.3 of the Penal Code.
It is against this background that the most representative trade unions launched a campaign, directed mainly at the political parties, for the repeal of Article 315.3 of the Penal Code and the decriminalisation of certain aspects of the right to strike. It has not, however, as yet been repealed and the power to repress strike action, together with the persecution of the right to protest and constraints on freedom of expression, is bringing about a rollback of fundamental rights and freedoms in Spain, impacting particularly heavily on the exercise and development of trade union rights and freedoms.

Delays in transfers of trade union dues 05-05-2017

Delays are being experienced in the transfer of the union dues deducted from CC.OO members’ pay and, in cases where companies go into receivership, union organisations do not receive the fees deducted from members’ pay, obliging the CC.OO to register as creditors to recover the dues deducted but not transferred to the union by companies such as: Astilleros Barreras, Vigo; Bosal España, Valencia; Koxka Technologies, Navarra; Schlecker SA., Catalonia; Unidad Hermetica, currently Huayi Compressor, Catalonia; Plásticos Compuestos, Catalonia; Cerámicas del Castro, Galicia; Iene, Galicia; Hullera Vasco Leonesa, Castilla-León; Minas Alto Bierzo, Castilla-León; Unión Minera del Norte (Uminsa); Kronosplan MDF, Castilla-León; Grupo Hotelero Hotasa, Canarias; Hotel Semiramis, Canarias; Metesa, Canarias; Hotel El Tope, Canarias; Gijón Fabril, Asturias; Hermanos Lirola, Andalusia; Agro Aceitunera, Andalusia; Manitran, Andalusia; Neumáticos Sur, Andalusia; Manufacturas Frigoríficas, Andalusia; Empresa Mixta de Servicios Municipales El Ejido, Andalusia; Transportes Buytrago, Andalusia; Cofrusa, Murcia.

Dismissals and other anti-union practices in response to strikes 20-02-2016

In addition to the police repression and judicial persecution, employers often take reprisals against workers involved in strike action. Some such trade union rights violations, although illicit, are difficult to take action against and remedy as they are disguised as apparently legal measures (termination of temporary contracts, inclusion in ERTE restructuring procedures, etc.), although they are clearly targeting workers’ representatives or trade union leaders.
Such tactics were highlighted by the Galician Supreme Court ruling, on 13 February 2016, which declared null and void the dismissal of a member of the works council at URBASER, a firm providing services to the City Council of Lugo. The company dismissed the workers’ representative just weeks after the end of the strike staged by waste collection and street cleaning workers and the signing of a collective agreement. The company claimed that the worker had been terminated because his temporary contract had ended; the court, however, deemed the contract to be fraudulent and the employment relationship to be permanent, declaring that there was reasonable evidence that the termination was a reprisal taken by the company for the dismissed worker’s participation in the strike staged from the months of June to August in 2014.

Crackdown on freedom of assembly and speech:01-07-2015

A new public security law was adopted and is scheduled to take effect from July 2015. The law includes a number of controversial changes with a serious impact on the right to freedom of assembly and expression. The legislation includes fines of up to 600 euros for failing to notify authorities about demonstrations in public areas, even in the case of peaceful protests. Public authorities may impose fines of up to 30,000 Euros for protests resulting in “serious disturbances of public safety” near the parliament as well as regional government buildings. Moreover, unauthorised protests near key infrastructure can lead to fines of up to 600,000 Euros.

Criminalisation of strikes09-02-2015

Some 300 trade unionists are currently facing administrative and penal proceedings. When added together, the prison sentences demanded come to a total of over 120 years in jail. Over the last four years, the Public Prosecution Service has started to refer to Article 315.3 of the Penal Code that establishes penalties of between three and four and a half years in prison for workers. In July 2014, thousands of Spanish workers took part in a rally in Madrid to protest the arrest and possible imprisonment of several hundred workers for taking part in strike action.

Prosecution for strike action31-03-2014

On 29 September 2010, Spain’s main unions the CCOO and UGT (Comisiones Obreras and Unión General de Trabajadores) called for a general strike to express their opposition to the policies implemented by the national government regarding labour issues – policies which represented a sharp decline in the rights of workers. Early in the morning on the day of the general strike, several hundred Airbus EADS -CASA workers in Getafe (Madrid, Spain) gathered at the entrance of the workplace to express their support of the strike. The presence of a large number of anti-riot police units at the factory gate, and their attitude towards the workers gathered there, created a climate of tension. Police behaviour did not help keep law and order but rather favoured the various incidents that took place and led to the use of weapons by the riot police, who fired at least seven shots. Following the serious incidents that took place on the day of the general strike and the subsequent police report, eight union members from the CCOO and UGT, were arrested. The Magistrate’s Court began a hearing concerning allegations made by the prosecution which could lead to imprisonment penalties of eight years and three months each and a total of sixty-six years in prison, plus a security of € 31,059.52 to which the defendants must respond jointly. Unions organised a demonstration in front of the factory gates of Getafe calling for the release of the trade unionists and protesting against the criminalisation of the right to strike and freedom of association in March 2014.

Arrest of trade unionists18-02-2013

On 18 February 2013, police used truncheons to beat union workers striking at Madrid’s international Barajas airport. It was the first day of a one week strike over Iberia airline’s decision to cut over 3,800 jobs and reduce salaries. Hundreds of striking workers protested, chanted and whistled at Barajas’ Terminal 4 and approximately 2,000 people demonstrated outside the terminal. One group staged a sit-in and other protesters marched 8 kilometres around Barajas. Police forcefully threw some workers out of the terminal and arrested at least 5 protesters. Both air stewards and ground staff employed by Iberia participated in the strike.

On 29 March 2012, Spain’s two main trade unions, the UGT and CCOO, held a general strike over labour law reforms which make it cheaper for employers to hire and fire workers. According to official figures, the police arrested 176 protesters and 104 people were injured.

Abusive use of minimum service rules02-02-2011

Public sector workers employed by the Community of Madrid were unhappy at the decisions made by their regional government. The strike on the Madrid metro on 29 and 30 June was in protest at the application of Law 4/2010 of the Community of Madrid, which cut metro workers’ salaries by 5% on the grounds that they while belonged to an enterprise of a commercial nature they received income from the general budget of the Community and were therefore civil servants. In organising the strike the workers respected the legal requirements concerning the notice period, strike call and notification.

The Transport Department of the Community of Madrid imposed minimum service requirements on the strike days, which in practice obstructed the right to strike of the majority of the workers, given that 100% of workers in the metro stations came under the minimum service rules. The trade unions have repeatedly lodged complaints with the courts against the Community of Madrid for abusively imposing minimum service rules every time there is a strike. Despite the fact that court judges have repeatedly sanctioned these abuses, the Community of Madrid again imposes minimum service rules knowing that even if there is a complaint, the judge’s decision will be made after the strike has taken place, and so will not affect it.

Despite blatant attempts by the company to avoid another strike the workers heavily supported it and on 17 July an agreement was reached. Plans for further strike action were called off. On 31 August the company lodged a claim against the strike committee and the trade unions for a massive six million euros compensation for damages and asked that the strike be declared illegal. The company’s claim was before the Madrid High Court at the time of writing.

Anti-union message in media30-11-2010

The unions are seriously concerned at the systematic discrediting of their work by certain media channels. The rolling back of the welfare state and the trend towards individualising labour relations are implicitly or explicitly presented to citizens as an alternative to the collective defence of their interests by trade unions.

Autonomous governments renege on commitments regarding trade union rights30-11-2010

The governments of various Autonomous Communities reneged on their commitments regarding trade union rights undertaken with public sector unions and the most representative unions in their Communities.

The numbers of hours and people dedicated to trade union activities were cut and the concept of the “workplace”, based on which representation rights are legally recognised, was unrealistically redefined. In addition, the institutions in charge of promoting social dialogue between trade unions and employers at regional level on such key issues as health and safety, social consultation on the adoption of legislation, housing, health, etc., were eliminated, under the pretext of the crisis.

The Communities where such measures were taken are Madrid, Murcia, Baleares, Castile-La Mancha and Valencia. In each case, the result is the elimination of the standards agreed to, unilateral non-compliance with commitments undertaken and a regression in the level of participation and recognition of representative activity.

The unions consider these violations to be part of the move to undermine their capacity to mobilise and respond to the social and public spending cuts being made.

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