Miguel Borra, president of CSIF on trade unions as essential services during COVID-19 in Spain.

The role of trade unions in Spain is enshrined in Article 7 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The aforementioned article states:

“Trade unions and employers’ associations contribute to the defence and promotion of the economic and social interests which they represent. Their creation and the exercise of their activities shall be free in so far as they respect the Constitution and the law. Their internal structure and their functioning must be democratic.”

Furthermore, article 28 of the Constitution includes freedom of association (trade unions and employers’ association) as a fundamental right. According to the case-law of the Constitutional Court, this right is individual in nature. In other words, it belongs to each individual worker, but it is exercised collectively through trade unions or employers’ organizations.

Similarly, in accordance with occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations, trade unions play an essential role in implementing occupational health protection measures that, at the moment, are closely linked with the measures to ensure the protection of public health and with the fight to contain and eliminate SARS CoV-2.

For this reason, it is not surprising that regulation SND/307/2020, issued on 30 March during the strictest phase of the lockdown in Spain (30 March – 12 April), stipulates that the restrictions on normal work activities that had been in place generally since 14 March do not apply to the activities of trade unions and employers’ organizations during the emergency health situation in order to guarantee assistance and advice to employees and employers. In other words: the activities of trade unions are considered as essential services for society.

It should not be forgotten that thousands of workers in the public and private sectors have remained in the workplace since the health emergency was declared. Moreover, there are many regulations affecting employment and working conditions that the Government dictates every week in various areas, such as:

  • Protection of occupational health, monitoring of and guidance on specific recommendations and regulations in this area;
  • Collective bargaining to ensure the rights of workers to information, to participate in  and be consulted on the COVID-19 measures before such measures  are adopted;
  • Mobility restrictions on the way to work and back home;
  • Essential and non-essential activities for society;
  • Shifts at the workplace;
  • Protocols to tackle positive cases of COVID-19 or potential case;
  • Sick leave;
  • Demands for personal or collective protection equipment (PPE and CPE) or items such as face masks and so on;
  • Security measures in the workplace;
  • Temporary lay-offs in businesses that have closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures;
  • Unemployment benefits;
  • Teleworking, etc.

Miguel Borra

President of CSIF

Central Independent and Public Employees’ Trade Union