BarcelonaIs it too cheap to fire in Spain? The legislature that is now ending with the calling of general elections opened the door to backtracking on the previous labor reform and touched on some aspects, but some of the most questioned never made it onto the political agenda . This is the case of the regulation of dismissal in Spain, an issue that the UGT first and CCOO then brought before the European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe to denounce that the State is in breach of what is established in the Charter Revised European Social.
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Let’s get down to business: first of all, what is this treaty? It is an instrument that guarantees the rights and freedoms of all individuals in their daily lives in areas such as housing, health, education, the movement of people, social protection, non-discrimination and, indeed, the work Its revised version is from 1996 (the original, from 1961), but Spain postponed its ratification for more than 20 years, which did not take place until July 2021.
And why does what this Letter says matter if you are unfairly fired? Well, because it strengthens rights such as, for example, that of protection in the event of dismissal. Article 24 establishes “the right of all workers not to be dismissed without valid reasons related to their abilities or their conduct, or based on the operational needs of the company, the establishment or the service “. If they are dismissed without a valid reason, this treaty recognizes their right to “adequate” compensation or other “appropriate redress”. It is at this point that the Spanish government and the unions have different views on what the adjective means proper.
The European Social Charter recognizes the right of workers to receive “adequate” compensation when they are dismissed without valid reason
Workers’ representatives argue that the cost of firing in Spain has fallen significantly since the advent of democracy. In 1977 compensation for unfair dismissal was paid at 60 days per year worked with a maximum of 60 monthly installments, that is five years. The Workers’ Statute, however, reduced it to 45 days and this compensation took a step back again with the labor reform of the PP of 2012: 33 days per year worked with a maximum of 24 monthly payments. The compensation for a target dismissal – for technical, productive or economic reasons that can be justified by the company – is compensated with 20 days’ salary per year worked and a maximum of 12 monthly payments.
These numbers have remained steadfast since the Great Recession until unions found a loophole based in Strasbourg. When Spain ratified the revised European Social Charter, it also agreed to enter into the system of collective claims that it foresees and which gives free rein to NGOs and workers’ representatives to file complaints if they consider that a state is in breach of the treaty. In March 2022, the UGT registered one that has already been accepted for processing, precisely to claim that the compensation for dismissal in Spain is insufficient. A few months later, in November, CCOO was added.
Go back on compensation
“Unfair dismissal in Spain has suffered a deterioration since the Workers’ Statute itself”, argues the deputy secretary of trade union policy of the UGT, Fernando Luján. What expresses his claim, summarizes the trade unionist, is that compensation must serve to compensate workers for the damages they assume when they lose a job, but also to dissuade companies from choosing this option if there are less drastic alternatives such as ERTE or the relocation of the employee. “We all know people around us who have been fired because they had only been in the company for a short time and the owner was struggling,” he laments.
For Mari Cruz Vicente, confederal secretary of Trade Union Action of CCOO, her union has always considered that compensation for unfair dismissal “must be high enough to serve as a deterrent”. “We can say that dismissal in Spain is not free, but it is quite discretionary on the part of the companies”, he adds. Even so, he admits that this issue did not make it onto the political agenda and trusts that the European decision will be favorable to the unions’ position in order to unblock the debate.
We can say that dismissal in Spain is not free, but it is quite discretionary on the part of companies”
Mari Cruz Vicente Confederate Secretary of Union Action of CCOO
For the time being, the executive of Pedro Sánchez has chosen not to open this Pandora’s box and when he submitted allegations to the claim of the UGT he stated that the current compensations were already sufficient. The Socialists also voted in March against a bill by ERC and EH Bildu to restore the 45 days per year worked, while Unides Podemos abstained. This despite the fact that the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, had mentioned on some occasion the possibility of touching the dismissal in a hypothetical second part of the labor reform.
The issue of Spanish dismissals was also repeated last week during the VIII Labor Days of the College of Social Graduates, where the specialist magistrate in social order of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia Carlos Hugo Preciado recalled that, according to the Social Charter European law, the compensation must be sufficient to deter the employer and cover the damages suffered by the worker. In his opinion, the foreseeable calendar is for it to be resolved from “September or October”, when Spain will have inaugurated a new government in Moncloa.
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