The ‘Marca España’ for Foreign Affairs: precariousness, strikes and violation of labor rights in embassies

Frozen salaries, strikes, growing precariousness and colorful street protests of the workforce of the embassies and consulates of Spain: that is the brand image that the Foreign Office is offering to the world as it continues violating the right of some 5,500 public workers to collective bargaining of their salaries and other labor rights. This is what the court rules.

A judgment that is already final makes it abundantly clear that The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has “violated the right to collective bargaining of the PLEX at the service of the General Administration of the State, as the annual review of their salaries has not been negotiated or, in any case, the rationalization by countries and areas of said remuneration has not been negotiated”.

This can be read in the ruling of the Social Court No. 8, which on July 29, 2020 (which we reproduce in full below this text), as well as the dismissal of the appeal filed by Foreign Affairs before the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (also included below), that has not been appealed.

The staff of the embassies and consulates of Spain around the world (staff working abroad or PLEX), essential for the operation of Spanish foreign action and attention to citizens abroad, has been on a war footing for a long time and Justice has proved them right: the Executive “has forgotten” their labor rights for years.

The situation led to a unprecedented 50-day strike at the Spanish diplomatic legation in the United Kingdom. “They were very brave, because there are groups that do not have the capacity to do so because they do not make ends meet“, point to Public by phone Osmany Llanes-Meloresponsible for CCOO in the Foreign Service, “that is why we have not been able to call a strike of greater significance”.

Immediately, other comrades began to protest in a symbolic way every Monday. In their stipulated time off, workers at embassies and consulates all over the world, from Belgium to New Zealand, from Argentina to Israel, have been sending images of their demands.

“Abandoned”read the posters that dozens of affected workers have been showing on social networks every Monday. The last protest will take place on July 25when the unions that promote this campaign -CSIF, CC OO and UGT- will summon the ministry again to comply with what the laws and Justice establish.

Precariousness

The union representatives of the workers assure that they their wages have been frozen for 13 yearswhich have been systematically forgotten by the Government and which their situation is increasingly precarious. And for this reason they demand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs comply with the ruling that requires the reestablishment of collective bargaining.

“The origin of the situation is a historic blockade of collective bargaining by Foreign Affairs with nearly 5,500 people around the world, who are employees and public employees of the General State Administration,” says Osmany Llanes-Melo.

Between the 1990s and 2009, there was a formula by which the Administration had to open negotiations on salary updates and update the salaries of this group “based on the socioeconomic situation of each country,” explains Llanes-Melo. That is it was necessary to take into account, for example, the inflation of each economy to review salaries.

In 2009 public salaries were frozen. All. However, in 2016 public salaries begin to be updated but those of the workforce abroad were not even touched, denounces the union representative. “They have been leaving us out of any negotiation, that’s why from CCOO we take this situation of abandonment and outrage to court“, Osmany Llanes-Melo points out.

“Now, what the Justice is saying is that there has been a violation of the collective bargaining of the PLEX during all these years,” he adds, adding that it is thus confirmed that “the Administration has looked the other way.”

protests in networks

The labor committee representing the PLEX decided take the protest to social networks and to the streets in front of Spanish embassies around the world, which has made this problem even more visible. The Foreign Minister himself Jose Manuel Albares, promised on May 9 to provide a solution “in weeks”. This medium is waiting for answers on the matter sent to the aforementioned ministry.

Until now, it has only transpired that the Ministry of Finance and Public Function has agreed to a salary increase of 8.75% for all the workforce hired by the Government of Spain in the United Kingdom, “insufficient” for the Independent Trade Union Central and Officials (CSIF).

Now that Justice agrees with foreign workers, the single PLEX committee is very clear about its main demands: remuneration update and fair and homogeneous salaries. If there is no solution at the turn of summer, if it is not negotiatedthe unions warn that the conflict “will go further”.

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