Okay, we all know there has to be some major belt tightening and the German government have made it clear that they don’t think that Spain is going to remain solvent for more than the next five minutes, but was it really necessary to slip the latest labour reforms in under the wire while the whole country was watching the football yesterday?
Bad enough to get beat in a game of football (and by Switzerland at that) but even worse to lose some of the meagre severance allowances that had previously been assured under labor law.
In a peculiar bid to encourage employers to hire more people, the Spanish government has just made it a damn sight easier for them to fire the staff they already have.
Even when the system required 45 days of pay for every year worked, some dodgy employers (like this joker) found every trick in the book to get out of paying employees’ severance pay.
Now when an worker is made redundant he or she is only entitled to 33 days pay per year worked and where before the company had to show reasonable cause for firing an employee now they only have to display an economic justification for doing so.
This bite out of workers’ rights seems to have been accepted very stoically. If my neighbours were taking it on the chin and saying, well its for the good of the country, I would understand but there seems to be no local discussion at all.
Had this trick been pulled in militant France, there would be riots in the streets and heads would roll. Touch one day of their public holidays and the French go postal and yet grab money out of the pocket of those made unemployed in Spain and no-one blinks.
Spanish labour law tends to come down on the side of the worker but that is only true if you know what your rights are and when they have been trampled on.
Take one boss I know of who happily agreed to a Spanish worker taking some vacation time. Off the employee went to spend two glorious weeks with family on the mainland only to come back and find she had been fired for not turning up to work. Because the employee did not have a signed letter stating the vacation period she could not prove that the boss’s permission had been given for the time off. Her non-appearance at her place of work was just cause for firing her and the company did not have to give her any severance pay (finiquito).
The same boss later called a British worker into his office and asked him to sign a paper. The document written entirely in Spanish was notification of dismissal and included a clause which stated that the man was being fired because he was slacking off. In signing it, the worker was ‘admitting’ to this fabricated transgression and therefore blew any chance he may have had at receiving severance pay (finiquito).
This employer, whom we shall call The Joker for his predilection at playing tricks on his employees, is a wily old bird. He juggles employees between companies, holds back salaries to afford materials for production and is currently conducting a manufacturing business in a place that is unsafe to work.
You have to wonder why The Joker has not been denounced yet. I can only guess that the staff he mistreats are afraid of not finding any other jobs in this current economic climate. Is it better, to work for pay that will come late than not to be working at all?
I know that the company in question provides services for some of Spain’s major tourist attractions – including several here on Tenerife. Would they still give the work to The Joker if they knew how shoddily he treated his staff? Sadly, I guess the answer to that question is yes. I am sure The Joker is undercutting his rivals to the bone and if the marketing department of the large tourist companies can save a few thousand euros on production who cares how The Joker manages to keep his prices so low, right?
As an expat in Tenerife or Spain, you should be aware that it is not a good idea to sign any document that you do not understand.
If you feel you have been unfairly treated, wrongfully dismissed or had unlawful deductions made to your salary you do have 20 days to take the case before the labour courts (Magistratura de Trabajo) but your rights may be seriously affected if you have signed any document that would allow your employer wriggle out of his obligations.
If you have a recognised teaching certificate and at least one year of experience you might want to apply for a full or part time position as an English teacher in Tenerife. Inlingua are looking for applicants and the job is to start ASAP!