Interim Workers Deserve More Respect


Fernando González Urbaneja | The government narrowly (by one vote and in a second vote) passed the decree law (which will be processed as a bill subject to amendments) opening the door for up to 800,000 temporary public workers to consolidate their employment with stable contracts. Governments (state, regional and local) have been using and abusing interim workers for decades. To such an extent that the European Commission and the courts have warned that the situation was unsustainable, an irregularity with overtones of misconduct.

This is nothing new, the problem has been dragging on chronically for many years, especially in health and education. To Minister Iceta’s credit, in his brief stint in the Public Administration, he confronted the problem, proposed alternatives, negotiated with the unions and took a decree law to the council of ministers to correct the anomaly.

It is debatable whether the proposal is the best possible one, whether the government is guilty of arrogance (something which characterises it) by not negotiating with the parliamentary groups, especially with its allies. What is clear, however, is that the problem is serious, proposing solutions is a matter of urgency and all those precarious workers deserve respect and alternatives.

The fact the decree was approved by the minimal, after last-minute adjustments which run the risk of being unconstitutional, indicates the legislators’ lack of respect for the interim employees. This is a typical problem that requires consensual and responsible solutions; solutions that will not please everyone – it is not possible to do so, alas, the casuistry is impossible to reconcile. But they require majority approval to avoid partisan confrontation in a matter of justice which mars the management of several governments of various parties.

This is not an ideological issue, given that it is an irregularity, denounced by Europe and by judges, which must be corrected with very broad agreements. There are reasons to believe the approved decree has holes and flaws that will have to be corrected in the debate on the law, which should improve the decree. It would have been catastrophic to reject the decree once it had been presented and agreed with the unions. The government is right to tackle the problem, it is wrong not to have fine-tuned the text and agreed on its content in order to achieve an ample majority. This is what those hundreds of thousands of temporary workers subjected to the disdain of their employer deserve.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.