Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 10:12 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Spain

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Spain, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca6e30.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 44,700,000
Capital: Madrid
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The parliament passed legal amendments, giving the members of the Civil Guard the right to form associations. The Constitutional Court recognised the right of irregular migrant workers' to organise and also to strike.

Trade union rights in law

The law recognises freedom of association. All workers can form or join the union of their choice; however, some categories of workers either do not have the right to join unions or there are severe restrictions on that right. Members of the armed forces, Civil Guard, the national police force and some regional police forces are not allowed to join unions, whilst judges, magistrates and prosecutors are not free to join the union of their choice. In October the national parliament approved two laws affecting the members of Civil Guard, recognising their basic right to associate.

The unions have been supporting the demands of the Civil Guards' Association in defence of elementary collective rights, especially the right to organise.

The Constitution guarantees the right to collective bargaining and protects the binding power of collective agreements. The law also protects the right to strike.

Undocumented workers gain the right to organise: Article 11.2 of the 2000 Law on Foreign Persons stipulated that only those who were duly authorised to work in Spain had the right to form or join trade unions or the right to strike. In December the Constitutional Court ruled this article unconstitutional, giving hope to millions of migrant workers who stayed in the country illegally. The verdict followed the previous court ruling in November, which declared unconstitutional three other articles of the same law restricting foreigners' right to organise. Spanish trade unions, which always claimed that migrant workers should be granted full trade union rights, welcomed the Constitutional Court decisions.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Temporary contracts affect collective bargaining: Although Spain has a well-established system of collective bargaining, it is undermined in practice by the high number of temporary contracts. Various statistics confirm that Spain is the European Union country with the highest percentage of workers on temporary contracts (32.5 per cent in 2004), 63 per cent of whom are immigrants. This clearly influences the working conditions of these workers. Taking advantage of these workers' uncertainty about their future employment, employers have made them accept working conditions that are not in line with legal standards. Whilst in theory temporary workers' contracts are covered by a sectoral agreement fixing their terms of employment, in practice collective bargaining is being replaced by individual agreements between managers and employees, who are obliged in practice to accept what they are offered.

Tripartite agreement on labour market reform: A tripartite agreement on labour reform was signed in May 2006, with a reduction of the proportion of temporary contracts being one of its main objectives. The reform limited the repeated renewal of employment contracts in the same company, offered financial incentives to companies to provide permanent employment contracts, envisaged measures to ensure greater transparency in subcontracting and to strengthen labour inspectorates, and facilitated workers' representation. In March, the reform was evaluated – permanent employment has indeed increased; however, temporary employment still represents around 30% of total employment.

Multinationals: Some big multinationals use their position to undermine trade union rights, such as threatening to relocate if they are affected by trade union action.

Union activist reinstated at Iberostar hotels: Last year's Survey told the story of Antonio Garcia Ramos, a representative of the hotel workers' union Federación Estatal de Comercio, Hostelería y Turismo de CC.OO. (FECOHT-CC.OO.) for Iberostar hotels in the Canary Islands, who was unfairly dismissed from his job for denouncing unsafe working conditions. In January the company also tried to intervene in trade union elections. Ramos refused an offer from the company to drop his appeal against the illegal dismissal in exchange for over 300 000 euros, and the FECOHT-CC.OO. started a campaign "Our union cannot be bought!" On 21 May the Labour Court overturned the dismissal and ordered Ramos's immediate reinstatement; even though the company appealed, the court decision was later upheld.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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