LABOR DISPUTE

We are not amused; Crown staff members to strike during Easter

Two-day stoppage is to protest enforced changes to working conditions established in collective agreement

Disgruntled Crown staff members are to go on strike during the Easter holiday period to protest unilateral changes made to their working conditions, sources of the labor union CSI-F said Wednesday.

Some 500 workers, including waiters who attend members of the royal family and gardeners who work at sites owned by National Heritage, will lay down tools on March 28 and 29 to protest an extension of their working week to 37 hours from 35 hours and the introduction of what was described as unpaid overtime, the sources said.

This will be the first stoppage by servants of the Crown since democracy was restored in Spain after the death of Franco.

“The reason for the strike is to make public salary cuts and substantial changes to working conditions regarding days and hours worked,” the union said in a document submitted to the central government’s provincial delegation in Madrid.

The CSI-F said individual members of the staff of the Royal Household will also file protests in Madrid labor courts about unilateral changes to the conditions stipulated in their collective agreement.

Union sources said workers do not rule out industrial action during official events, which could impact the agenda of the royal family.

The two-day stoppage will coincide with a holiday period when there will be many visitors at sites owned by National Heritage, such as the Royal Palace in Madrid and the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the traditional burial place of Spanish monarchs. Union sources estimate there are some 100,000 visitors to these sites during the Easter period. Entrance fees range from 10 to 17 euros.

Other public workers have already held protests against the extension of their working week and the suppression of the traditional extra Christmas payment as part of the government’s austerity drive.