Being a unionist in the Civil Guard is the fastest way to get slapped with disciplinary proceedings, judging by the epidemic of sanctions at the main union representing the law enforcement agency.
The AUGC, with 33,000 members, has racked up 35 sanctions for serious offenses in two years under the Popular Party (PP) administration, and another 20 in two years under the Socialists. Of these, a significant portion was handed out to union representatives. The situation has reached the point where the union is having trouble finding leaders because people are afraid of getting punished for it.
There is no precedent for such a situation at other similar associations in Spain.
“Many proposed sanctions are ridiculous,” says an AUGC spokesman. “And even though proceedings don’t get very far, they do manage to keep the affected officer concerned for the duration of the process, or else after that nobody wants to take on the responsibility of holding a union position.”
This is what happened to a provincial secretary for the union, who told the press about two colleagues in the traffic department who lost part of their salary for failing to impose enough traffic violations a month. Following the press conference, the secretary was informed that he had committed a serious offense and could face losing between five and 20 days’ wages and suspension for up to three months.
The union informed the media about this, too, in a press conference where the target of the disciplinary measure was present but did not speak. As a result, he was told he had incurred in another serious offense, and faced further sanctions.
“They are looking for ways to keep me on edge,” said this officer in a written statement. “How do I tell my wife that we have to move because I’ve been stationed elsewhere due to my union work?”
As a rule, sanctions are imposed on members of the Civil Guard for appearing at press conferences or granting interviews. This is what happened to the legal department secretary of AUGC in Cádiz, who had three disciplinary proceedings opened against him is as many months. The same goes for the secretary general in Córdoba, who was investigated for two minor offenses: making statements to the press and writing an article about the 1812 Constitution.
The case of the Cádiz secretary involves a curious anecdote: the secretary asked his superiors what the breathalyzer test protocol should be on rainy days. He was sanctioned for asking the question. The disciplinary proceedings show the genesis for the case: on one specific day, a test was conducted on a driver; the Civil Guard sergeant claimed it was a sunny day, while four officers including the secretary said it was raining quite heavily.
But one of the most serious cases affected the legal department secretary of AUGC Melilla, who was switched to a different post with no prior warning: from a position inside a courthouse, he suddenly found himself inside a checkpoint on the border with Morocco. This officer is a diabetic and he complained about the poor conditions at the checkpoint. This triggered more disciplinary measures. In the meantime, the officer suffered a diabetic coma, an event that is currently being investigated.
This sanctioning activity began gaining traction toward the end of the last Socialist administration, when both the ruling party and the opposition PP agreed on a strategy of reinforcing the military nature of the Civil Guard. A spokesman for the law enforcement agency said that union activity is not recognized and that the sanctions “follow the legal channels” and are in no way “measures of a political nature.”