By Eloise Horsfield
AT first glance it looks reather like the UK expenses scandal, where Members of Parliament falsely claimed thousands of pounds for nannies, second homes, food bills – and even porn films.
But this time, it is entirely legit.
For despite the austerity crisis, Spanish civil servants (or funcionarios in Spanish) have been enjoying generous payments for items such as earplugs, acupuncture, tights, dance classes… and unbelievably, simply for going to work each day.
In a range of bizarre and disgraceful claims, others have been getting salary ‘supplements’ for teeth whitening, speech therapy, riding a motorbike…and the list goes on.
While admittedly, the ‘tights allowance’ at Malaga Town Hall is not going to break any budgets at €23.59 per employee per year (just females, we presume), the fact it exists highlights how ludicrous some of the claimable items are.
More importantly, it also begs the question: How many other personal items are being paid for out of the public purse?
What we do know is that, also at Malaga Town Hall, swimming earplugs are being reimbursed at 50%. Perhaps the administration is worried that its employees will use ear infections as an excuse not to come into the office if it does not.
Which brings us on nicely to perhaps one of the most absurd payments of all – and here at the Olive Press we can hardly believe it exists – the ‘attendance bonus’.
Incredibly, over 500 public bodies in Spain offer this curious salary supplement, administered in different ways depending on the town hall or government department.
But whatever way it is spun, it is basically a bonus for turning up to the office.
In the pretty tourist town of Aranjuez, near Madrid, where town hall employees receive an extra €150 a month for turning up.
Meanwhile, employees at Fuenlabrada Hospital are given a healthy €1,177 at the end of the year just for bowling in.
Another generous bonus is the ‘screen bonus’, offered by 50 town halls throughout the country to compensate employees for sitting at a PC ‘for the entire day’.
At Villa de Epila, near Zaragoza, the payment is a generous €60 per month.
This as Spain announces more and more cuts, and a quarter of Spain’s workable population – some five million people – have no job to go to each morning.
Pamplona Town Hall is perhaps one of the most generous administrations in Spain when it comes to supplementary payments.
As Pamplona Town Hall human resources manager Julio Sucunza explains, many of these extra payments started being given around 2004 during the building boom.
“The economy was strong and the bonuses were a way of compensating people for continuing to work in the public sector,” he explains.
“In these times though such bonuses are obviously superfluous,” he agrees.
Sucunza feels so strongly against the payments, he began campaigning nine years ago for them to be scrapped.
“Negotiations with the trade unions have been very hard,” he says. “They keep asking us for more and more, and don’t seem to realise that we can’t allow paying out these amounts just so they can get their teeth fixed.”
Others have defended the payments.
These include the trade union CSIF that represents the civil servants in Malaga, which insists the €1,224 paid out for productivity and attendance is deserved.
He admitted, however, that payments for luxuries such as the coil – a method of birth control – and earplugs were ‘absurd’.
Another trade union in Navarra goes further in defending the payments, arguing that they are well-deserved and should not be removed.
“We are given these grants as special supplements for doing our jobs,” claims Isabel Artieda, who has headed demonstrations in Pamplona against scrapping its generous town hall bonuses system.
“They are not wasteful spending. We civil servants deserve them all, and more.”
But the belt tightens around Spain and the five million unemployed get increasingly agitated during this ‘hot autumn’, it is unlikely many people will agree.
Be a civil servant, and get reimbursed for…
Malaga Town Hall will reimburse 50% on swimming earplugs
..Wearing cook’s shoes
Almeria Town Hall pays all kitchen staff to have special heel-lifting footwear if they want it
..Looking at a screen
Villa de Epila Town Hall pays out €60 extra a year for all employees who have to endure the inconvenience of sitting in front of a PC for the whole day
..Having a sandwich
Burgos bus drivers are given a daily supplement of €4 if they fancy a spot of lunch during their five-hour shift
..Going to work
Aranjuez Town Hall pays €150 a month to all employees managing to attend work, while Icod de los Vinos pays €142 a month and Cadiz €1,248 a year
..Being a coeliac
Malaga Town Hall compensates workers by €208 a year if they are unable to eat gluten
Malaga Town Hall also spends €23.59 a year helping keep its workers’ legs warm
..Using the coil
Malaga also pays out €30 per year for women who wish to have this optional method of contraception fitted
..Going to an evening class
Alcala de Henares pays out €90 per year to help its employees enjoy music, theatre or dance lessons
..Getting fake teeth
Orellana la Vieja gives €200 extra to workers a year to pay for dentures, while Huelva town planning department reimburses root canal treatment and orthodontics at 100%