Spain’s Ambassador to ,?? Manuel Cacho Quesada, with Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.Staff at the Spanish consulate in Sydney have continued industrial action over the Christmas period, saying they’ve been paid below the n minimum wage for more than six months.
In July, a group of eight locally engaged staff at the Spain’s Consulate-General walked off the job after the Spanish government refused to pass on a 3.3 per cent pay increase, ordered by ‘s Fair Work Commission as an increase to the minimum wage.
Amid an ongoing pay freeze from Madrid, the staff have taken 35 days of indefinite strike action to protest working conditions, seizing on last week’s Catalonia regional election to raise local awareness of their situation. Latest public service news
Catalan citizens who were registered to vote were able to deposit ballot papers in-person at Spanish consulates this month, prompting strong participation from Catalans living in .
The Sydney consular staff walked off the job every second hour during the voting period, wearing t-shirts with slogans declaring “I earn an illegal salary”.
Staff plan to continue to wear the t-shirts into 2018 as part of continuing protest action.
“For the election, we respectfully complied with the minimum services and there were no incidents to report,” a representative of the group said.
“Our intention was not to disturb the electoral period, but to draw attention to the extreme and abusive situation we find ourselves in.
“We have endured a nine-year pay freeze, and for the last two years we’ve been demanding a justifiable salary increase that takes into account the elevated cost of living in Sydney and inflation”.
“We are very frustrated, but we are determined to fight this unjust situation until it is resolved.”
Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said it would raise striking worker’s salaries to the n minimum wage for the clerical award, but the group said the minimal increase was unjust.
They reject the government’s explanation that tight fiscal conditions caused by the global financial crisis prevent greater increases, saying Spanish diplomatic missions in have different pay conditions and the average salary for an ambassador of Spain is higher than the salaries of all of the consulate workers combined.
As locally engaged staff working for the Spanish government, the group says they are caught between Spanish and local employment conditions.
Covered by ‘s clerical award rate, they say they have no possibility of promotion and some salaries remain below local minimum wages.
“We have told them that this does not fix anything, we will not accept being kept on the minimum wage forever.
“We demand similar salaries to those of n workers with similar duties, skills, experience and responsibilities.
“These astronomical differences do not seem reasonable to us, considering we’ve been kept below the minimum wage for 6 months”.
Earlier this year the group called on Spanish Ambassador to , Manuel Cacho Quesada, and director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Sydney office to provide assistance.
Spain’s CSIF union estimates more than 10,000 employees of the Spanish government around the world have insufficient protection and believe working conditions are out of step with other expatriate officials and diplomats.
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