The Catalan Government reduces public sector salaries by 3% to meet deficit objectives

The salary drop is to be added to the 5% cutback in 2010 and the 2011 salary freeze despite the increase in inflation. Trade unions denounced that since May 2010, Catalan public employees have lost 20% of their purchasing power. In addition, trade unions have abandoned negotiations as they say the Catalan Government is imposing the measures. The Vice President, Joana Ortega, stressed that the measure is “temporary”, in principle only for 2012; however she did not discard the idea of repeating it in 2013 if the economic situation requires so. The measure will save €180 million this year, which is part of the €625 million package to be saved that affects public employee labour conditions.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

February 17, 2012 10:06 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government announced on Friday that all its employees, including civil servants but also temporary workers and those working in public companies and independent bodies dependent on the Government, would have their salary reduced by 3% in 2012. This is to be added to the 5% salary reduction approved in May 2010 by the Spanish Government that affected all public employees in Spain. According to trade unions, with this new measure, since May 2010 Catalan public employees have lost 20% of their purchase power. The 3% salary cutback will take effect in June, and most likely will reduce the summertime additional payment, which is not a bonus but a regular part of a salary. The Vice President of the Catalan Government, Joana Ortega, who is in charge of public employee human resources and the functioning of public administrations, explained that the 3% salary drop will directly save the Government €180 million. In November the Catalan Government announced it will base most of the 2012 public spending decrease on reducing public employee salaries and modifying their working conditions, aiming to save a total of €625 million. The modification of the labour conditions are still to be negotiated, although temporary workers will see their working time reduced by 15%, and thus their salary by the same percentage. Trade unions are angry about Friday’s announcement, as they believe the Government is imposing modifications and not actually negotiating. They have abandoned the negotiation table and stated they will not re-join the process until the Government presents details on how the measures will exactly affect public employees. Furthermore trade unions have criticised the modification in working conditions –such as eliminating restaurant vouchers or personal days off– the salary drop announced on Friday represents a 7% drop for civil servants and an 18% fall for temporary workers.

Two days after the Catalan Government had its budget for 2012 approved by the Catalan Parliament, the Executive has confirmed one of its main measures to control the public deficit. The Catalan Government had announced that, in order to meet the 1.3% deficit objective in 2012, it would reduce the salary of all its employees and those of the organisations depending on the Government by 3%. The measure will save €180 million according to the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega. The initiative is part of a package modifying the working conditions of public employees, which includes eliminating restaurant vouchers, reducing the number of personal days off, eliminating the productivity bonus, and reducing the working time and salary of temporary public workers by 15%, among other measures. The package will save a total of €625 million this year. It will affect not only the 165,000 workers that are directly employed by the Catalan Government but, according to trade unions, a total of half a million people that work in the Catalan public sector.

Ortega has insisted that the measure is “temporary” and only applicable in 2012. However she also said that she couldn’t guarantee further salary reductions, depending on the evolution of the economy. Ortega repeated that the measure aims to “maintain the maximum number of jobs” and “avoid lay offs for budgetary reasons”.

In addition, the Catalan Vice President said that if the Spanish Government announces another reduction in public salaries in Spain (which would be added to the 5% reduction already implemented in 2010), then the Catalan Government might not implement the 3% reduction announced today. Ortega stressed the aim of the measure is to save money by reducing salaries by 3%, no matter who approves the measure, and that the Catalan Government “does not want to harm its workers” by reducing their salaries more than in other parts of Spain.

Trade unions protest and leave the negotiation table

The Catalan Vice President has asked trade unions to show “more responsibility” because “the best way to avoid asphyxia in the Welfare State” is through “dialogue” and “reaching agreements”.

However, trade unions believe that the Government “is laughing in [their] faces”. They said that the Catalan Government is “acting unilaterally”, imposing the new conditions. Trade unions said that the only thing the Government wanted to negotiate was “if the salary cutback was done at once in June or progressively over several months”. “We will not negotiate the way they plan to cut our head off, whether it is by using a saw or a guillotine”, they added.  Talks will not continue until the Catalan Government presents details and numbers on the austerity measures that will affect public employees.