WORK CULTURE

Spanish government fails to put an end to long “bridge weekends”

PM had pledged to curb the practice of taking off days in between national holidays

Taking off the days in between national holidays is standard practice in Spain.
Taking off the days in between national holidays is standard practice in Spain.Samuel Sánchez

In 2016, Spanish workers could be getting a whole week off in early December – just because of the way national holidays fall on the calendar.

Next year, December 6 and 8 – which celebrate Constitution Day and the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception, respectively – fall on a Tuesday and Thursday.

2016 national holidays

El PAIS

These are the provisional dates, pending government confirmation:

January 1 –  New Year’s Day

January 6 – Epiphany

March 25 – Good Friday

(May 1 falls on a Sunday)

August 15 – Assumption of Mary

October 12 – National Spain Day

November 1 – All Saints Day

December 6 – Constitution Day

December 8 – Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Under Spanish customs, many students and workers take advantage of a Tuesday holiday, creating a “puente” or “bridge” by taking the Monday off, thus enjoying a four-day weekend.

Same goes for Thursday holidays, when many people take off the Friday for good measure.

The concept is taken to the limit on the rare occasions when both Tuesday and Thursday are official non-working days, leading to the “macropuente,” when people take the whole week off. This giant “bridge” is sometimes also referred to eloquently as an “aqueduct.”

In order to curb this practice, which officials admit could be detrimental to the competitiveness of Spanish companies and harm productivity, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had promised to move most national holidays “to the nearest Monday.”

Exceptions would be made for very significant celebrations such as Christmas, New Year’s Day or May Day, which would remain unchanged.

“We will rationalize the working calendar to make workers’ rights compatible with business competitiveness,” said the Popular Party leader at his investiture speech on December 19, 2011. “Specifically, we will address the costs to our economy of the puentes, so that holidays will be moved to the nearest Monday, with the exception of the most socially significant dates.”

But Rajoy, who is running for re-election at the general election of December 20, has failed to make good on his promise.

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All regional governments have already approved their 2016 business day calendars, which contain additional holidays observed in each particular region. And sources at the Spanish Labor Ministry said they will soon publish the national business day calendar for next year.

Spain’s main employer association, the CEOE, had proposed moving 10 out of Spain’s 14 national holidays to a better calendar date. This group had even signed a deal with the unions on January 9, 2012 agreeing to push August 15, November 1 and December 6 to the nearest Monday.

But nearly four years later, that commitment has been dropped from the agenda. Union and employer association leaders say the issue has not been on the negotiating tables for a long time now.

English version by Susana Urra.

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