A Madrid municipal employee has been dismissed apparently over the fact that she is the mother of a small child.
Her boss, Popular Party (PP) councilor Ángel Donesteve, who heads the city’s Hortaleza district, explained that “she would rather balance her personal and family life, but I need maximum performance and as many work hours as possible.”
The employee had been in charge of the district’s legal services department for 10 years, and for the last two has served as district secretary, the third most important position in the local administration.
Donesteve called her “an honest public servant who has done her work very well. Thanks to her the administrative output of the legal department has increased by 50 percent.”
Donesteve became a Madrid councilor on January 30, 2013. While initially left out of the council when the Popular Party won local elections in 2011 (the party secured 31 seats and he was 41st on the list), subsequent resignations and refusals by other party members allowed him to get a spot.
Before that, Donesteve had worked as a political advisor in the Salamanca district. These positions are personal appointments whose holders do not need to have passed a relevant public examination, yet are nevertheless funded with public money. As such, his salary was €50,500. As a councilor, Donesteve makes €91,780.
Yet the councilor, who has the power to appoint and dismiss the district secretary as he sees fit, justified relieving her of the role with the following argument: “I was delighted when she happily became a mother a year ago, [but] right now I prefer to have maximum performance. I only have eight months left here at the most, so I want the utmost efficiency from the entire district team.”
“I feel that the residents of Hortaleza deserve complete dedication,” added Donesteve, whose district has a population of 174,000.
Donesteve also happens to sit on the Family and Social Affairs Committee of the Madrid city council.
Since having her child, the dismissed employee has never requested to work reduced hours, nor did she apply for any measure aimed at balancing work and family life. She put in her regular 8am-to-3.30pm shift and also did additional afternoon work.
Ever since her dismissal as district secretary several days ago, she has been on sick leave with anxiety. She has decided not to return to her post in the legal department, as this position also answers to the councilor; instead, she is awaiting a new appointment at a different city agency.
Donesteve has since sent a note to EL PAÍS apologizing to the municipal worker “insofar as it might have been construed that the reason [for dismissing her] was based on her motherhood. It should not be construed in this manner at all.”
But opposition groups in the Madrid council – the Socialists, United Left and Union, Progress & Democracy – criticized Donesteve’s decision.
Jaime Lissavetzky, the local Socialist spokesman, said it violated labor law and represents “discriminatory exclusion.”
“The PP is cutting back on kindergartens and on social assistance to the elderly, and at the same time it is preventing people from balancing their work and family lives.”