The other night I got a call from ABC Radio in Australia, asking me to comment on this story about Spain abandoning the siesta and changing (back) to the same timezone as the countries on Britain’s latitude.
I did a short interview on their breakfast show [click on the MP3 link here to listen to it] and I argued that these proposed changes are (underneath all the supposed reasons) largely an attempt to get more hours of work from people without paying them more for it.
The study was set-up by Rajoy’s PP government who have continually made it very clear that they one of their biggest plans is to reduce wages and “reform” labour conditions. The report that was produced was part-authored by Nuria Chinchilla, a business school executive. That says a lot to me.
Business representatives are the first to blame workers for the economic problems in this country, while ignoring their part in often hiring relatives and friends ahead of better qualified and more experienced candidates. It means that this kind of nepotism creates a type of employee who believes they do not have to work well to keep their job and the cycle of “jobs as favours” for those with connections continues. To me, this a much greater problem than anything related to hours of work.
One of the proposals being put is that people work 9 to 5 and have no siesta at all.
I have never had a two-hour lunch break and plenty of people here do not, but the less obvious part of the plan is to bump up the time spent working in the average day of the average working man or woman in Spain.
As Ignacio Buqueras, president of the Association for the Rationalisation of Spanish Working Hours says in a related Guardian article, "We should be starting between 7.30am and 9am and never finishing work later than 6pm. Half an hour, or an hour, is more than enough to time to eat a healthy lunch." In other words, it could be legal to start much earlier than 9am, work until 6pm and have only 30 minutes for lunch.
What are the chances that an increase in wages will accompany an increase in working time?
Zero percent chance.