Spanish workers three and a half million hours of unpaid overtime a week – equivalent to more than one hundred thousand jobs in a country with over 17% unemployment. The opposition is pushing for a new law that will expose individual firms for exploiting their workforce in this way, says Vincente Clavero
The effects of the crisis have been amplified in Spain with labour reforms, weapons of mass destruction of jobs. The two labour reforms- that of Zapatero of 2010 and the one introduced by Rajoy of 2012 – took away rights that had taken decades to win and disarmed the workers in their relations with employers. As was easy to foresee, this brought with it a brutal increase in unemployment and a runaway decline in the quality of employment. Many people, who enjoyed stability and a reasonable salary were put out onto the street and replaced by those on contracts that were worse paid and temporary.
There are those who said then and continue to hold the view that the labour reforms served to avoid worse evils and that without them a recovery was impossible. However, the truth is that, to date, not only have we not reached the pre-crisis employment levels, but the jobs today are of much worse quality. Getting a full-time fixed job is for many Spaniards a chimera, and to have remuneration that is enough to live on is an inaccessible illusion. I do not know what would have happened without labour reforms; but what the catastrophe they have brought for workers is in sight of all.
The worsening conditions of employment very often lead to the purest and most brutal exploitation. An example of this are the extra hours that some employers force on workers, without paying a euro in return. Well, some entrepreneurs do not; but many do, the official statistics tell us. Every week Spanish workers put in no less than three and a half million unpaid overtime hours, work that is therefore completely illegal. That is equivalent to more than one hundred thousand jobs, which could be created for those without work and which could boost the welfare budget, which is not in good health.
The Spanish parliament, on the proposal of the PSOE, has taken into consideration a bill whose objective is to put an end to the abusive prolongation of the working day imposed by employers. Only the ruling Popular Party (PP) and their allies Cuidadanos voted against. If it is finally approved, it will be mandatory for all workplaces to have a reliable record of the clocking on and clocking off of their employees in the future. It must be recorded in the actual schedules, so that the labour inspectorate is able to verify if they conform to current regulations. Will it serve for anything? I do not know, because we know that the law was made to be broken. But at we should make it as difficult as possible those who seek to break it. Unpaid overtime is a scourge; what isn’t permissible is to look the other way and still do nothing.
You can follow Vincente Clavero on Twitter: @vicente_clavero
Vincente Clavero is a journalist, writer and professor in the Faculty of Information Sciences of Madrid Complutense university. His professional career has led him to work for Europa Press, ‘ABC’, ‘Expansión’, ‘Público’ and the regional newspapers of the Prisa group, among other media. He was director of the weekly ‘Gaceta Universitaria’ and the newspaper ‘The Courier of Andalusia’. He has collaborated as a political and economic analyst with CNN +, Cuatro and 13TV. He has published four novels: Su Eminencia’ (2007), ‘Santo serás’ (2011), ‘Yo soy el hijo de Franco’ (2013) y ‘No esperes al rey’ (2016). Es autor también de dos ensayos: ’14 de abril. Crónica del día en que España amaneció republicana’ (2015) y ‘El desahucio de la Monarquía. La prensa ante la llegada de la Segunda República’ (2016), based on the doctoral thesis of 2014.
Translation by Revolting Europe