The Plataforma Abogacía y Turno de Oficio has filed a complaint with the European Commission for violation of the fundamental right to strike of Spanish lawyers, proclaimed in Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
This article states, on the right to collective bargaining and collective action, that “workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have the right, in accordance with Union law and national laws and practices, to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action”.
This organisation is made up of the associations AJAI, Ajato (Jaén), Altodo, Asato (Toledo), Atoib Baleares; the Spanish Confederation of Public Defence and Free Justice Lawyers (CEAT), Defenda, the Forum of Independent Lawyers of Granada (FAIG), Iusta Causa (Córdoba), Otrosí de Abogacía y Procuraduría (Albacete), ZaTURNO (Zaragoza), Ahora Abogacía, and ALA. The complaint is signed by 13 of the 15 associations.
In the letter, signed by Victoria Ros, María Amparo Martínez, Carmen Morallón, Gemma Martínez and Miguel Ángel González de Miguel, the lawyers emphasise that Spanish lawyers suffer discrimination compared to their Italian, French, Greek and even English barristers, who, however, have been able to exercise their right to strike in their respective countries.
The platform also denounces “serious and numerous infringements” by the Spanish state of the EU rules and acquis communautaire, as well as European values, including the alleged violation of Article 2 of the EU Treaty, which states that:
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men”.
It also denounces, in terms of conciliation, “situations of colleagues who have just given birth, even with caesarean sections, who are forced to breastfeed their newborn babies in the corridors of the courts, because they are not allowed to suspend a hearing, nor are they allowed the conciliation of work that other workers and parents have”.
Faced with this situation, they ask the European Commission to raise and initiate proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) “for a new and serious breach” of the deadline for transposition of Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the reconciliation of family and professional life of parents, given that the Courts have been dissolved due to the call for national elections on 23 June, the mandatory transposition has been suspended once again.
They recall that Spain was warned by the European Commission itself and we are one month away from the deadline of one month for the expiry of the ultimatum given by Europe, since this Directive, despite having been approved in 2019, had a deadline of two years to be transposed into the legal system of the Member States, a period that ended on 2 August 2022, as a deadline for the transposition of the Directive on Reconciliation of family and professional life.
In their letter, they point out that this European directive, which mainly benefits salaried lawyers, establishes a series of rights, such as paternity leave, where fathers will have at least ten days from the birth of their child, a parental leave of four months that can be taken in different periods or full-time, and carers will also have a minimum of five days leave per year.
Furthermore, as they recall, this legal text applies mechanisms to make working hours more flexible for parents with children under the age of eight, who may request a reduction in the working day.
The directive also grants women the right to a minimum maternity leave of 14 weeks, including two weeks of compulsory leave, they add.
In the complaint, they report the “serious malaise and social alarm” of Spanish lawyers in the face of “serious situations of abuse by the public administration” with this profession, with cases of “colleagues who have had a relative die (children, parents) or sick lawyers who are forced to attend hearings or meet procedural deadlines for the presentation of written documents despite being hospitalised”.
These situations have also been publicly denounced in recent months with numerous rallies throughout Spain.
The Platform of the Legal Profession and Public Defence asks the European Commission to agree to expressly recognise the fundamental right to strike and to open formal infringement proceedings against Spain, and to bring the matter before the CJEU if the deadline for transposition of the Directive on the reconciliation of family and professional life is again missed.