Civil service
Business 21/07/2021

Public sector workers having been on temporary contracts for over 10 years to be given permanent posts

Spanish government narrowly manages to pass law which will demand no more than 8% of public sector staff is on temporary contracts

3 min
The Minister of Finance and Public Function, Maria Jesús Montero, during the plenary session in the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday

"I hope so," said the Minister of Finance and Civil Service, María Jesús Montero, just before entering the the Spanish Parliament to defend the decree law that seeks to end temporariness in the public sector. And so it was, though with not much to spare. The agreement was promoted by the former Minister of the Civil Service, Miquel Iceta, with backing of the main unions. However, it was opposed by other minority unions who say the reform will leave many workers without jobs . The reform has been ratified in the second round - it was tied in the first vote - thanks to the votes of the coalition government parties (PSOE and Unides Podem), ERC, Compromís and other minor parties.

To get the bill through parliament, Montero agreed at the eleventh hour public sector workers who have been on temporary contracts for over 10 years and have not been summoned to a civil service examination may keep their posts. In this case, their "merits" would be assessed and they would be exempt from the examination. In addition, it opens the possibility to some civil service examination processes not being eliminatory. These two changes are added to a far-reaching reform that will force public administrations -including municipalities and councils- to have no more than 8% of temporary contracts, to cover the positions of temporary workers with permanent staff within a maximum period of three years and also to compensate workers who lose their job with 20 days' salary for every year they worked for the administration.

Before the debate, the Spanish government's main partners , including Unidas Podemos, had not made clear which way they would vote. "I know that some groups do not fully share the approach or some of the rules, but this government is open to negotiate," said Montero, who has finally won her first victory since she took over as Minister for the Civil Service.

The PP, Vox and Ciudadanos have voted against the measure, and so did the BNG, JuntsxCat, the PDECat, Bildu and CUP. The first have branded it as a "patch", while Catalan parties claimed "it will be the workers who will pay the price with layoffs and low compensation".

ERC (13 deputies), which until the last minute had declined to vote in favour, backed the agreement despite criticising that "[the decree] should not have arrived with so little support and in such an urgent manner". It also received support from PSOE (120 MPs), Unidas Podemos (34, since one MP did not vote in the second round because she did not agree with the reform), Teruel Existe (1), Nueva Canarias (1) and Compromís (1). That is, 170 votes in favour. The regulation was also able to go ahead thanks to the abstentions of the PNV (6) and Más País (2)

300.000 places

With this new regulation, the public administrations will have the obligation to convert some 300,000 temporary positions into permanent positions through competitive examinations. One of the unions' main concerns is that many interim workers will be left without work if they do not pass the exam. For this reason the Ministry for the Civil Service has agreed to introducing a different system - an "assessment of merits" - for workers on temporary contracts who have worked for the administration for over 10 years. In addition, workers losing their jobs will receive compensation 20 days' salary for every month they have worked for the administration up to a maximum of one year's pay. They will also be included into special job pools.

Unions have been denouncing for years that the Basic Statute of Public Administration Workers already limits the number of temporary staff, but it is not complied with. In fact, the percentage of temporary staff is between 30% and 40% in sectors such as education or health. In the case of staff hired by regional administrations, temporary employment affects 30% of public workers, while in the municipalities it is 13% on average. On the other hand, the temporality rate in State administrations is 8%. In the case of the Generalitat, it stands at 32%. Finally, the process of stabilisation of public employment will have to be completed by December 31, 2024.

Complying with Europe

Sánchez has committed to Brussels to promote the reform of the public sector before 2022. It is a commitment included in the document that the Moncloa sent to the Commission on the reforms linked to the European recovery funds, that is, in exchange for the €140bn that Spain will receive to aid its economic recovery after the pandemic. The commitment was warmly welcomed by the EU executive , which had long been calling for the reform.