Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
The Spanish Constitution grants unions the authority to promote and defend the workers’ economic interests. It also empowers them to represent workers in collective bargaining and to participate in the preliminary mandatory conciliation steps before disputes can be presented to governmental conciliation agencies.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
Freedom of association and representation are fundamental rights in the Spanish Constitution. All employees (except senior executives, i.e., general managers) are represented by the elected representatives. There is no distinction between blue and white-collar representatives. It is the employees’ duty to start the process of elections, and thus, the employer has no obligation to promote them.
Employees’ Representation in Management
Due to the principle of mutual trust between the employer and senior executives, the latter cannot be eligible nor participate as electors in the employees’ representation for they (senior executives) cannot defend or represent opposite interests to those of the company.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
The most basic form of collective representation in Spanish employment law is known as “Personnel Delegate”, or “Staff Representatives”. Representation of the workers in a company or work centre with less than fifty and more than ten workers shall be entrusted to the staff representatives. There may also be a staff representative in companies or centres that employ between six and ten workers, if so decided by the majority workers.
The employees are entitled to participate in the company on issues related to health and safety in the workplace. Health and Safety representatives are elected by and among staff representatives in the field of the respective bodies of representation, and specialise in health and safety matters at work.
The works council is the representative and collegiate body of all the workers employed by the company or work centre in charge of defending their interests; it shall be established in each work centre with a register of fifty or more workers.
A company that holds two or more work centres in the same province or neighbouring municipalities, which register less than fifty workers but which, overall, total this amount, shall have a joint works council. A CBA must establish the incorporation and operation of a Joint Council (“Comité Intercentros”) up to a maximum of thirteen members, to be appointed from amongst the members of the various councils. When incorporating a Joint Council, the trade union proportionality according to the election results taken as a whole shall be maintained. Such Joint Councils may not take on other duties than those expressly granted in the CBA whereby their incorporation is agreed.