LOCAL POLITICS

The Spanish town council that pays for its employees’ dental treatment

New Socialist leaders in O Porriño vow to end “abusive” perks that cost taxpayers €1 million a year

Spain’s economic crisis has not brought any cuts to O Porriño, a small town on the outskirts of the northwestern port city of Vigo, in the Galicia region. Thanks to an agreement signed between the former Popular Party (PP) administration and council employee representatives when the PP came into office in 2010, municipal workers and their families have enjoyed benefits such as private university courses and even dental and ophthalmic treatment, all paid for with taxpayers’ money.

Former mayor Nelson Santos faces corruption allegations.
Former mayor Nelson Santos faces corruption allegations.LALO R. VILLAR

The Socialist Party, which took over following the municipal elections of May 2015, says it intends to “end this abusive situation.” Mayor Eva García de la Torre has described the perks enjoyed by local government employees as “disproportionate.”

It has recently emerged that the local authority paid out €15,000 for distance-learning university courses in law for three council employees.

The benefits were approved by former PP mayor Nelson Santos, who is now under investigation for corruption. Prosecutors want him barred from holding public office for 10 years after it emerged he had awarded dozens of public contracts to companies that he had family or other links to.

Labor unions representing council workers say they will oppose cuts to their perks

O Porriño, which has a population of around 20,000 and a budget of €18 million, sets aside €1 million for employee benefits. The town spends a further €5 million on its wage bill for 120 workers. Some employees are paid up to €60,000, while the mayor earns €38,000 before tax.

Labor unions representing council workers have already said they will oppose De la Torre’s bid to cut their perks, and have refused to attend negotiations to reach a compromise settlement.

Sources at the CC OO labor union deny that the collective bargaining agreement is abusive, and have described the mayor’s bid to cut it as “unjustified”, adding that any changes would have to be approved by the local council.

“These are workers’ rights and if any clause is considered abusive it can be corrected through dialogue, not through accusations,” said a spokesman. Labor unions say they are confident that an appeal they have lodged with the regional government of Galicia will be accepted and that the matter will not end up before the courts.

García de la Torre says that reforming the collective bargaining agreement has become a political battle between the Socialist Party leadership and a staff that mostly supports the PP. “This has become political and gone beyond being a budget issue; it is about ending abusive privileges at the expense of the taxpayer,” says García de la Torre.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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