Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 12:58 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Spain

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Spain, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
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: 46,000,000
Capital: Madrid

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


The labour reform of 2011 has serious implications for collective bargaining rights. Some Autonomous Communities tried to prevent strikes by imposing excessive minimum services.


In December 2011, Mariano Rajoy was elected president of the government, following the victory of the Partido Popular (PP) in the general elections. The electoral campaign was dominated by the crisis and the high rate of unemployment.

In February, the main trade union centres Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) reached an agreement with employers and the government on pensions, collective bargaining, the labour market and other issues. The pact was aimed at ensuring the future sustainability of the public pension system, maintaining a high level of benefits.

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. Certain groups of workers, however, do not have the right to join unions or have restrictions on that right, such as members of the armed forces, the national police force and some regional police forces, and judges, magistrates and prosecutors. Self-employed workers, unemployed workers and pensioners can join existing unions but cannot form unions to specifically defend their own interests.

The legislation guarantees the right to collective bargaining and establishes that collective agreements are binding, as well as protecting the right to strike.

The government, however, passed a Decree-Law, validated by the Constitutional Court in June 2011, whereby it unilaterally decided to cut the wages of employees in a number of public administrations by 5%, contravening the terms negotiated in collective agreements.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Labour reform undermines collective bargaining system:

In July, the government passed legislation (Royal-Decree Law 7/2011) seriously affecting the binding nature of collective agreements and the ability of trade union organisations to structure the collective bargaining system.

The labour reform's most serious implications are the precedence given to company-level bargaining, overriding the agreements concluded at sectoral level between unions and employers' associations, the imposition of mandatory arbitration in the event of company adaptation, the non-application of pay rises and the deadlocks in negotiating processes.

This legislation was adopted by means of an emergency procedure and although it has legal force, the content was not debated in Parliament but simply ratified at a moment of political transition ahead of the general election. Moreover, most of its content goes against the agenda being negotiated by unions and employers to seek a joint solution to the bargaining rules.

Autonomous governments renege on commitments regarding trade union rights:

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.

Abusive minimum services: The public administration substantially reduced the right to strike by imposing minimum services, which was set at 90% of ordinary services in some instances (as seen with the transport strike in the Autonomous Community of Valencia). The courts are confirming the legality of the administrative resolutions based on criteria devoid of any concern for safeguarding fundamental rights, according to the unions. The right to strike in the transport sector, for example, has been limited during holiday periods, based on the need to facilitate the free movement of tourists.

Anti-union message in media: 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.


No entry for this country for this year

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