Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Spain

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Spain, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
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: 44,600,000
Capital: Madrid
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unions are recognised in law and practice. The high number of fixed-term employment contracts and soaring unemployment are practical obstacles to the right to organise.

Trade union rights in law

The law recognises freedom of association. All workers, including migrants and undocumented workers, can form or join the union of their choice, however, some categories of workers 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 2007 the national parliament approved two laws affecting the members of Civil Guard, recognising their basic right to associate.

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

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: On 7 March, in the city of Mondragón, Isaías Carrasco, a member of the ITUC-affiliated Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) and a former Socialist town councillor, was brutally murdered by ETA. The assassination was strongly denounced by CC.OO. and UGT.

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, 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 reduction of the proportion of temporary contract 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 2007, the reform was evaluated – permanent employment had indeed increased, however, temporary employment still represented around 30% of total employment.

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

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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