Jun 012011
Parking ticket in Oslo, Norway.
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I have had one of those mornings where you finish up with the blood pressure through the roof and teeth ground down through so much gnashing of them throughout the morning.

There are many great things about living and working in Spain and then there are Spanish Civil Servants (Funcionarios) and banks, not the nice people who work in banks day to day, just the bosses and the computer systems.

Let’s start with Spanish civil servants. A bit of background first in case you haven’t read it here before. Spanish civil servants are the most cosseted, over privileged group in the whole of Spanish society. Spanish people do not aspire to be entrepreneurs in general they want to be civil servants for various reasons:

1) You cannot be sacked… ever!

2) You get paid 14 times per year with extra payments at Xmas and summer.

3) Pay is much higher than in the private sector.

4) You can spend all day doing sweet FA and nothing can be done about it.

The gravy train starts here. It is difficult to become a civil servant but once you are in let the good times roll.

Well anyway, recently the Spanish government announced that civil servants would be receiving a 5% pay cut. The unions called a general strike which was followed by 13% of the population, not much sympathy for civil servants there is there? I would have happily cut pay for the majority of them by 50% just because they are so bloody minded, lazy and such jobsworths.

Allow me to elucidate with an example from this morning. I parked my car in the blue zone in Lliria. This involves paying to park which is not too bad as it costs about 60c per hour. I didn’t have any change so I went around the corner to get some. There were two people in the queue so I took about 3 or 4 minutes and when I got back I had a parking ticket. I decided to look for the traffic warden to get them to take the ticket off me. I spent 20 minutes trying to find her, it turns out they were having a coffee and a fag somewhere. As I couldn’t find her I went to see a policeman who told me that at the town hall office opposite they would sort it for me.

In the office they called the traffic warden who by now was in the same square as me. I went outside to talk. I explained that I had been going for change and she said (Conversation follows)

“Well where is your ticket?”

“I just gave it to you.”

“No the one allowing you to park.

“I haven’t got it because when I got back to my car I had a ticket which clearly states I have two choices. Pay 4 Euros to annul the fine within an hour of the ticket or pay 20 Euros fine.

“To me it is obvious that you should have paid for a ticket then come to look for me with that ticket to prove you have paid.

“Well to me it isn’t.

and so on, and so on, and so on for ten minutes. Luckily I speak Spanish and can easily hold my own in these conversations/stand up rows however I dread to think how a non Spanish speaker tries to get round these situations.

In the end I was told in no uncertain terms that I was totally wrong while she was ripping up the ticket. So at least a partial victory for me. Why partial? Because I had wasted 45 minutes of my time for four Euros which I could have paid. However it is the principle of the thing.

Then I had to go to a bank because I had a letter dated the 2nd of July stating I had a debt of 18 Euros and could I come in and sort it please asap. I received the letter on Monday the 12th. I went into the bank to find that even though there is three days grace on these things, the deposit in cash I had made into the account on the 5th had only entered into my account on the 6th because “That is how our accounting system works”,  and therefore the 3 days grace I had been granted had run out meaning that I had been charged for late payment. How much? 30 Euros!! So for an 18 Euro debt they had charged me 30 Euros extra or rather 166% on top for one day. Those interest rates would embarrass Payday loan lenders like Quickquid!

I was told to complain in my actual branch. Now I know they will probably refund me because the people in my branch are really nice and like me for some reason. However, again it is the principle of the thing.

So will I get an eventual win? Probably not. I have spent two hours this morning avoiding 50 Euros or 34 Euros of charges just because of my principles. Could I have spent my time better? Probably. Do I have yet another reason to hate Spanish Civil Servants? Yes just add it to the list of well over 1000 strong reasons for hoping that the government will actually get tough with them and cut their wages by 50% rather than 5%!

Related Reading

1) The Dynamism of The Spanish Entrepreneur

2) Spanish Business Culture. Just Behind Mongolia

3) How Telefonica Doesn’t Get It

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  7 Responses to “If I Were In Charge… Spanish Civil Servants Beware”

  1. “1) You cannot be sacked… ever!

    2) You get paid 14 times per year with extra payments at Xmas and summer.

    3) Pay is much higher than in the private sector.

    4) You can spend all day doing sweet FA and nothing can be done about it.”

    Each of these points is either untrue or only partially true.

    1) – Of course you can be sacked for plenty of things. Civil servants can be made redundant too.

    2) – Most employment ‘convenios’ in Spain include 14 payments a year. It’s a system designed to help people who don’t have much money afford the expense of Christmas and a summer holiday. Many more modern companies, like the one where I work, roll the extra two payments into the other 12. So I get 12 salary payments which each have a bit of summer and Christmas pay in them. But I don’t get any more or less per annum than I would with 14 payments.

    3) – Not sure what this is based on, especially now there has been a 5% cut. Besides, I know plenty of people who work in the public sector and they only really start to earn more than those of us in the private sector when they get into their 50s. This is because the private sector chooses not to value loyalty and long service.

    4) – The same as (1) really. It’s just not true.

    Additionally, the general strike is planned for September 29th – is hasn’t happened yet.

    There are a lot of families who depend on civil service jobs for their total household income. Families of nurses, for example, (and nurses are certainly not paid particularly well here).

    It seems like your ‘principled’ stand against Spain’s civil servants is entirely the result of your not being able to pay for a parking ticket.

  2. Hombre, tranquillo. 🙂

  3. Hi Tom

    Taking it point by point.
    1) Show me a sacked funcionario ever. The poor interinos get treated like crap even though they usually do their work much better but I don’t know of sackings of public sector workers. (In many ways this is good but it means that many take advantage) The best/worst example I know of was in Asturias. A teacher at a primary school taught French. When the system changed to English he was asked where he was moving to and said nowhere I am staying here. He had it explained to him that no longer did his job exists but within his rights he said he was going to stay. The system then made him teach English to kids, a language he knew nothing of and he would learn the page for the class before it and that was it. This gives a great example to the kids of course whenever they asked a question “off the page” as it were but also they were inculcated in the same way, be a funcionario and do what you want.
    2) True about the 14 payments. I forgot about that because I have worked for myself for so many years and my wife’s pay as a teacher in a private school, earning about 65% of pay in state schools for the same years of experience and type of job, is rolled into each month’s pay.
    3) In many town halls for example an administrative assistant is paid around 2500 Euros, which is where their pay should be by the way more or less, however in the private sector for a similar job as you will know the unfortunate mileuristas without any job security on shoddy contracts are paid half or less with overtime etc… so they have little sympathy for the civil servants whose jobs they aspire to ironoically.
    4) Not all funcionarios do nothing of course. Broad generalisation to make a point. However you try getting an appointment at 11am in the morning with an official and you will be waiting round for an hour while they come back from their merienda. If you haven’t lived that interminable wait then might I suggest that Barcelona is very different at least to my part of Spain.

    Totally agree re nurses and even most police funnily enough. They are not paid well. i won’t say the same about teachers as many of them are useless at their jobs and the poor kids suffer as a result (eg English teachers who cannot speak English and don’t even try) Also families with two civil servants in will suffer doubly and it really should be the banks, bankers at the top and developers who got Spain into this mess by taking backhanders bribes and being generally dishonest who should pay the price.

    Regarding your last comment. Of course I could pay it. That is why I went for change, annulling the fine only costs 4 Euros after all and 20 Euros isn’t going to break the bank. However I don’t think that jumping on a car that has obviously just stopped, hot engine, not there on previous pass etc… is really fair.


    PS Do you think the General Strike will be followed massively?

  4. I’ll be on strike. I think lots of others will be too. It’s not just about civil service salaries. It’s about the whole bailout of Capital 🙂

  5. Happy days, Graham! Like you, I adore Spain but there are times when life can become like something out of Kafka! Certainly, the funcionario system needs changing – it is demoralising for all concerned.

  6. […] admin published If I Were In Charge… Spanish Civil Servants Beware. […]

  7. This is one of the best thing i have ever read today… actually i live in spain madrid…. and all i read here about spain is 100% true, i live here and i know it… spanish some of them, if not all have the oportunity to have better life but mejority of them and more than lazy that they don´t even want to leave there father´s house in search of better life, they always depend on there parents till they die and the worst part of it is that they don´t want to learn and correct there errors…infact this is not my problem cos if i have to write about spain i will need days and pages to do so… my problem is that zapatero(spanish) president is not doing the right things he should do… am in 100% agreement will the amendments his doing now but yet there are some parts he needs to look into like job retirement i think the earlier the old retire better for the younger ones cos it will creat more space for younger worker.He should try and look into the younger workers to know how they improve..

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