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Spain's Social Security staff threaten first strike in history over shortages and delays

Spain's Social Security staff threaten first strike in history over shortages and delays

The trade unions say there will be partial strikes of one hour every Friday, and a 24-hour strike on 7 September in all Social Security centres

Lucía Palacios

Madrid

Friday, 12 May 2023, 15:23

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The first strike in the history of the country’s Seguridad Social (Social Security) service could be on the cards.

It comes after social security minister José Luis Escrivá played down claims the public body was at a point of collapse, following complaints from people unable to get appointments and claims of a shortage of staff. He labelled the opposition PP’s accusations in Congreso “hoaxes and lies”.

Nevertheless the unions responded by announcing a strike. Two national trade unions CSIF and CC OO agreed on Thursday, 11 May, to put pressure on the ministry to address issues such as staff shortages, an ageing workforce, delay in appointments and office closures.

They said they would carry out partial strikes of one hour every Friday, from 10.30 to 11.30am, and a 24-hour strike on 7 September in all centres.

Both unions accused Escrivá of a "lack of will" to find a solution to these problems. They also criticised the "lack of commitment" of the ministry to comply with the government's 'Strategic Plan' for Social Security and warned that "this has failed from the beginning due to the absence of a real diagnosis of the situation, of real incentives and the lack of vocation for compliance in the short or long term".

CC OO pointed out that new measures needed to be implemented for working conditions of staff, remote work, work schedules, training, provision of jobs, application of additional funds, internal job promotion, partial retirement, job stability and public job offers. They said that these initiatives are "abandoned over time" and directly affect organisation and management.

"Faced with this chaotic situation, in order to find a way out of the problems currently facing Social Security, we are forced to raise the level of demands," the unions warned.

Escrivá awarded an additional six euros to Social Security workers’ salary for each appointment they attended outside their normal working day, with appointment delays stretching out to three months in some areas. But the move outraged the trade unions.

CC OO rejected any kind of overtime and argued that the way to get work done and clear backlogs is to hire more workers. "The staff are not willing to do it," Dolores Panero of CC OO told SUR.

Escrivá is also negotiating with the Treasury to be able to hire temporary staff, as he had promised to hire 2,000 immediately, 3,200 in the first half of the year and 4,000 throughout the year. This is an attempt to alleviate the staff shortage after 10,000 civil servants have been lost in the last decade and the workforce has now been reduced to just over 24,000.

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