The CGT union has called a strike for the local staff of the Institutos Cervantes abroad for next Friday, November 18. The reasons for the protest are the wage freeze to which the institution’s employees abroad have been subjected, subject to local legislation in each country in which they work; and the lack of response from the Public Administration and the Institute itself.
The Cervantes Institute advocates the “brotherhood” of the languages of the State
This situation, as explained by the Nieves Gurbindo union to this newspaper, affects workers from all organizations, including “administrative, ambassadors or consulates.” The Cervantes Institute, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is present in 88 cities in 45 countries, through its centers, classrooms and extensions, on five continents.
The negotiating body for its workers is the Labor Conditions Commission, in which the CCOO, UGT and CSIF are present. CGT is not present in it, something that it has claimed in court when at the end of 2019. It won in the first instance but they lost in the appeal and has currently filed an appeal.
The mobilizations come from behind and have also been supported by other unions. CSIF and the CCOO Teaching Federation have convened a weekly half hour stoppage between October and December of this year. From CGT they report that, after meeting in the Assembly, the local staff considered that they needed more forceful action, for which they chose to call the strike that will take place this Friday.
In the union they claim that salaries should be reviewed every year in accordance with the general budgets of each country and their currency exchange. “This is what had happened until 2009. In 2010 it was said that the situation of the context of last year was maintained and there were no changes until 2019,” says Gurbindo. According to the resolution of the International Remuneration Commission to which this media outlet has had access, the economic crisis was the reason for the non-updating of the remuneration of foreign workers, given that this “determined the need to adopt measures to contain the personnel costs of the various public administrations”.
“The 5% reduction in their remuneration, established in Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, which adopted extraordinary measures to reduce the public deficit, was not applied to these personnel,” the report added. Gurbindo describes as “amazing” that this is the argument that, twelve years later, they continue to use to continue without updating salaries except for 2019, in which there was a slight increase that they considered insufficient because “the unions were not listened to and it was a little forced by increased conflict.” In 2020, 2021 and 2022, salaries have continued to be frozen. The last resolution, corresponding to last September 28, denied it again.
As reported to elDiario.es, Luis García Montero, director of the Cervantes Institute, will remain outside the call, but affirms that he “perfectly understands the wage demands, because he knows first-hand the extremely difficult situation abroad.” The person in charge indicates that he “has tried through the different mechanisms offered by the Public Administration to review or improve said salaries.”
In an interview with this medium last June, García Montero stated that “with a bigger budget”, he would promote “Spanish cultural action abroad” because it is “the best way to defend the true Spanish society is to disseminate its culture”.
United Kingdom, the most affected local staff
Gurbindo points out that the freezing of wages is a situation that “has neither head nor tail in certain foreign countries. In some it is charged as if it were 60,000 euros in Spain, but in others it is the opposite”. There are currently Cervantes centers on five continents, so it is a group of workers with a great disparity in their living conditions.
Of all the territories in which they are present, the United Kingdom is the worst off. “They are unable to take it anymore,” he says, “their case is the most serious because now that they have left the European Union, they are made to pay taxes and social security there, and they take 25% of the money from them.” “Many people have other jobs to support their family,” she laments.
The salary update is the first point to negotiate included in the CGT statement. Their request is that it correct the loss of purchasing power suffered by employees, with an increase equivalent to the accumulated inflation in each country of destination in the period from 2009 to 2022. They also define as relevant to develop an agreement that establishes a “ objective salary structure” that adapts to the needs of each of the countries in which the Instituto Cervantes is present.
More protest goals
His second point to discuss is to achieve the implementation of a “professional classification that allows the establishment of clear functions attributed to each job.” In such a way that there are fair and homogeneous remunerations adapted to each category. Likewise, they claim 100% remuneration for sick leave due to incapacity for work. “This right has not been able to be recovered since it was lost in 2012,” warns Gurbindo.
In addition, they request the possibility of teleworking three days a week, as recommended by the Government in the plan on energy saving and efficiency measures. At the moment they have managed to go from one day to two days of the week. “They say that the hallmark of Cervantes abroad is face-to-face and they do not admit teleworking,” warns the prophesying representative of the difficulty in achieving it. From the institution, García Montero indicates that “he feels much closer to the unions when they fight for salary rights, than when they make union demands such as the extension of teleworking in the Public Administration, leaving citizens at the mercy of a videoconference in a hospital or a Spanish class”.
Another of the points to be negotiated is the “subscription of medical insurance for staff and their dependent family members in countries with very deficient health systems”, in such a way that the conditions of the employees are equal to those of the staff subject to Spanish legislation. The representative indicates that being there would be a way to “compensate” for the non-rise in salaries and as a projection measure.
In the CGT they are prudent when assessing expectations regarding the follow-up to the strike on Friday the 18th. “It is complicated,” describes Gurbindo, although he anticipates that “staff from Western European countries with lower salaries will be the most affected.” regarding the standard of living”, they hope that it will be in these where its impact will be greater. “2,800 euros in Morocco is a lot, in Stockholm they don’t give at all,” he says.