Brussels warning: Spain’s labour legislation punishes temporary workers

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According to the report, “temporary workers are more likely to lose their jobs and suffer from salary cuts than workers with fixed-term contracts.” As a matter of fact, the European Commission explain that Spanish temporary workers have suffered from a salary reduction “between three and four times larger” than permanent staff.

The European Commission’s message to PM Mariano Rajoy is clear: Spain should review the law so as to eradicate the duality in the market. It is a reality that “could lead to a slow and inefficient adjustment process, which would disproportionately penalise temporary workers.” They explain that“results show the need to implement a reform in labour legislation”, which should balance working conditions by reducing the gap between permanent and temporary contracts.

The EC also denounces the “relatively high level of protection in employment provided in legislation for workers with open-ended contracts.” Since decisions surrounding dismissals are affected by the cost of the compensation required, the Spanish labour market encourages firms to dismiss permanent workers at the lowest rung on the ladder…

Temporary workers do not have such problems, because the cost of their dismissal allows the most qualified workers to remain at the company.

“Another big problem is that most of the temporary contracts in Spain are fraudulent, at least  60% of them.”

Huge differences between temporary and open-ended contracts are usually the result of salary problems and company agreements, which are quite different from sector agreements.

The current labour law in Spain is permissive, which means labour protection is almost non-existent for new workers. The European Commission notes that between 2008 and 2013, the economic and financial crisis destroyed almost 3.5 million jobs in Spain, a drop in employment of 16%.

What can be done to close the gap between temporary and permanent contracts in Spain? Faustino Cavas, professor and head of the Labour Law Department at the University of Murcia, spoke to The Corner:

Both at Community and national level, temporary workers have the same rights as  permanent workers. However, the precariousness of their jobs and the weakness of their contractual position prevents them from fully enjoying their rights on equal terms,” he says.

“Be that as it may, Spain should work to encourage  open-ended contracts by prosecuting  illegal temporary recruitment and by fostering working stability by means of  collective bargaining. They should also synchronise the cost of contract expiration both in temporary and permanent contracts,” Mr Navas advises.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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