Eighty percent of employees of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UK, and associated trade unions, are supporting a strike against salary inequality and Social Security payments. The strike began with a protest outside the Spanish embassy in London on Monday 14 March, and is now in its fourth day.
A second call to strike will take place on Monday 21 March in Manchester.
In a statement, representatives of the employees have said that the strike will go on for an indefinite period of time until demands are met, affecting the consulates in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as the embassy.
According to the representatives, the problems regarding salary inequality and Social Security payments have been made worse since the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
The workers have three main demands. Firstly, a salary update to remedy their loss of purchasing power due to thirteen years of frozen wages. According to data published by the Bank of England, inflation in the UK has risen at an annual average of 2.6%, which equates to cumulative inflation of around 30% since 2008, when the last annual wage update was made for this group. The employees explained that the situation was made worse with Brexit: since then, inflation has been its highest in 30 years, with a 5.4% increase in 2021 alone.
Secondly, they demand the immediate homogenisation of workers' salaries within the same administrative category. According to the representatives' statement, newer employees are being paid more than those who have worked within the organisations for years, despite the fact that all are affected by rising prices and inflation. They claimed that workers with the longest contracts sometimes find that their salary does not comply with the United Kingdom's minimum wage.
Thirdly, strikers demand the option to contribute to the Spanish Social Security system. The employees' representatives claimed that the British system is minimal and is often supplemented by individual companies, something which the Spanish administration abroad does not provide.
They explained that after Brexit, a law was implemented which allowed public employees to be subject to either the Spanish or United Kingdom social security system, but said that Spanish administration ignored this, leaving their employees to the "mercy" of the British system.
According to the representatives, the strike comes after months of unsuccessful communication with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Director General of the Foreign Service.
Trade union organisations, by decision of the majority of the staff working in these facilities, support the strike as well as the demands that motivate it.
Juan Antonio Aguilera Alba, a representative from the Spanish Consulate Edinburgh, explained, “We serve Spain, but Spain has us in a situation of absolute job insecurity. Thousands of Spaniards and non-Spaniards in the UK depend on our work.”