Can Trade Unions Strangle A Country? – Yes They Can!

My wife and I have a penthouse in a residential community in Marbella on the Costa del Sol in Spain, and it wasn’t until today that I realized how labour laws are strangling the country. My wife is president of the community and responsible for the day to day running of it along with her three-man committee. We have a concierge who is causing many problems by not doing his job properly, spreading rumours and has on occasion been abusive to residents. In an effort to make him more efficient he has been given a work schedule with specific tasks at specific times, but he still seems to think he can do as he pleases and for the most part ignores it. Under these circumstances you would think the simple solution would be to fire him and get someone new: Wrong! This is Spain!

Today my wife and the committee sought advice from an official labour advisor who told them he cannot be fired unless we can prove gross negligence. Such is the state of the labour laws in Spain that it is almost impossible to get rid of a lazy or useless worker – there is literally nothing you can do! The only way to rid ourselves of the man is to pay him a huge sum of money in compensation. As you can imagine, this is not really a viable option in these troubles times.

Some of the contractors that used to do jobs around the community have proven to be sloppy, inefficient and lazy which is symptomatic of many. Needless to say, they do not work here anymore.

This whole business started me thinking and examining the state of the country in light of these laws. Spain has been in the doldrums ever since the housing market collapsed and the country had sunk further into debt year by year, and as I have said previously, the biggest problem is inefficiency. Although the current prime minister Rahoy is strenuously refusing a bailout from the EU, the situation is dire. The country has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe and with the recent increase in purchase tax, prices are going through the roof.

When you visit some governmental or local offices it is customary to find chaos, rudeness from staff, and a total lack of cooperation, plus you have to get used to waiting for long periods to be helped. At this point I must make it clear this is not a ‘blanket statement’ because there are exceptions to every rule. The local council offices (ayuntamiento) in Marbella were very quick and efficient when we visited last week, but compared to that, the labour offices in the city are a complete disaster.

The bottom line really is that in this country, if you have an inefficient, or lazy worker there is little you can do to get rid of them. The labour laws have made it almost impossible to replace someone who just isn’t good enough. It seems that provided you turn up for work and manage to shuffle a few papers around your desk every so often you cannot be fired.

I tried doing some research into the Spanish labour laws but the waters are very muddy and its almost impossible to get any real information, but one thing that is certain, like in many other countries, they evolved from trade union pressure on the government.

There is nothing more motivating for a worker than to know he can be fired if he doesn’t do his job properly, but to get that far, there has to be a major shift in government policy regarding the labour laws before the country will be able to get back to its collective feet. One thing is certain, whichever government takes on this task will find the mob outside the gates in lynching mood.

Roy.

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