Public employee unions protest at not being informed by the Catalan Government about delays in the extra salary payment

The Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell stated in a press conference that because of the Spanish Government’s refusal to pay them the promised €759 million, the Catalan Government will be short of cash for the remainder of the year. Mas-Colell explained that Catalan public employees would receive most of their Christmas bonus with a one week delay. In addition, service providers will also be paid later. Visibly angry and arguing that they had not been previously informed about the measures, union representatives decided to leave the negotiation table with the Catalan Government where talks had been taking place about next year’s salaries, working conditions and staff numbers.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

December 15, 2011 10:27 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government and public employee representatives are in the middle of negotiations over next year’s budget reduction and how it will affect salaries, working conditions and staff numbers. At the same time the Catalan Government has found itself in financial difficulties because of the Spanish Government’s refusal to pay them €759 million, despite being legally obliged to do so [see related news]. Since the Catalan Government is now lacking this money, which had been included in this year’s budget because of promises made by Madrid, the Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell, has drafted urgent measures to postpone some of the December payments. Mas-Colell announced in a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the Catalan Government will delay two kinds of payments: the Christmas bonus of public employees and service provider bills. Public employees would receive 80% of their Christmas bonus with a one week delay, and the rest “as soon as possible”, but probably in 2012. Reacting to this announcement, union representatives decided to abandon the negotiation table with the Catalan Government. In the past few days, there have been a greater number of disagreements, and both sides have already left the negotiation table on one occasion. According to Government sources on Thursday evening, trade unions and the Catalan Executive have agreed to return to talks on Friday morning.

Despite street demonstrations organised by trade unions on Wednesday, public employee representatives and the Catalan Government have continued negotiations over next year’s budget reduction. However, public employees abandoned the negotiations visibly angry, after the press conference from the Catalan Minister for Finance, Andreu Mas-Colell. He announced that, since the Spanish Government refuses to pay €759 million, the Catalan Government is short of cash and needs to postpone payments to many service providers. He also explained that public employees would receive only 80% of their Christmas bonus with a one week delay. They will receive it on December 28th and not before Christmas. Furthermore, they would receive the rest (which can represent up to 20%), at a later date. However, Mas-Colell did not want to commit to an exact date, but said “as soon as possible”.

The Christmas bonus is equivalent to one month’s salary, as traditionally in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain, annual salaries are paid not in 12 monthly payments but in 14. This way, 12 payments are paid at the end of each month and 2 others are paid as Christmas and summer bonuses. Therefore, the Christmas bonus is not an extra payment or a production stimulation measure, but a part of the employees’ salary, representing around 7% of their annual pay.

Mas-Colell justified the payment delay because the Spanish Government owes Catalonia €759 million

The Catalan Finance Minister stressed that the decision to delay payments is merely due to a cash problem created by the Spanish Government, refusing to pay €759 million. It is legally obliged to pay this money, but refuses to pay it now saying that it has no time to sign the needed protocols since it is an outgoing government. Last Tuesday, the Catalan Government decided to send a formal complaint to the Spanish Ministry of Economy and, if they are not satisfied with their response then they will take the issue to court. [see related news]

The main opposition party in Catalonia, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) backs the Catalan Government on this issue, despite being part of the outgoing Spanish Government. However, the PSC asked for transparency on the Catalan Government’s treasury policies. Besides, the People’s Party (PP), which takes over office next week, considered the issue to be related to the incompetence of both governments involved. The PP knows that in one week, the payment of the €759 million will be in its hands, and does not want to give an answer on the issue before it takes over and has a clear picture of the Spanish Government’s financial situation.