Spanish Embassy staff in UK go on strike over pay and work conditions

Staff at Spain’s Embassy and Consulates in London, Manchester and Edinburgh have called an indefinite strike starting on March 14th which will affect the issuance of visas, passports and other services.

Spanish Embassy staff in UK go on strike over pay and work conditions
The Spanish Consulate in London at 20 Draycott Pl. It's not the first time Spanish consular staff in the UK go on strike over their pay. Photo: Eire Vila/Flickr (CC)

Workers at the Spanish Embassy in London and the three Spanish Consulates in the UK will go on strike indefinitely from Monday March 14th as they call for an improvement of their work conditions.  

“It is possible that the provision of services by the Consulates will be affected, especially in London,” Spain’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. 

The Embassy and Consulates are responsible for issuing Spanish passports, offering assistance to Spanish nationals, processing visas for Britons who want to move to Spain and more. 

“In any case, the provision of minimum services will be guaranteed to offer the highest possible level of attention to the public and justified emergency situations will be dealt with as a priority,” Exteriores stressed. 

The strike group is demanding a salary update after thirteen years of reported wage freezes (equivalent to the accumulated inflation from 2008 to 2021), equal pay for all workers in the same administrative category and the option of contributing to Spain’s social security system rather than the UK’s, which since Brexit offers higher benefits than the British system.

Staff members will stage a protest outside the Spanish Embassy in London at 12.30 on Monday 14th.

According to La Región Internacional, a publication aimed at Spaniards abroad, the strike has the support of the majority of the embassy and consular workers and follows months of negotiations during which the demands of the group haven’t been met. 

As expected, the news has not gone down well among Spaniards in the UK, who have taken to Twitter to complain that the consular service offered before the strike was already subpar. 

In 2021, Spain went for six months without having an Ambassador in the United Kingdom and there have been ongoing complaints for the past years about long queues, poor service and lengthy processing times, all of which have worsened as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit. The Spanish Consulate in London in particular receives a large number of negative reviews on Google and Facebook. 

There are now reportedly dozens of Spanish nationals in the UK with expired passports who have complained that the Spanish Consulate in London offers a complex and arduous cita previa (prior appointment) system for renewing their documents.  

Spanish consular staff already staged two strikes in 2015 and 2017 for reasons relating to pay and work conditions.

More than 200,000 Spanish nationals are residents in the United Kingdom. 

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Spain and New Zealand to increase number of working holiday visas

The governments of Spain and New Zealand have announced plans to bolster the working holiday visa schemes between the two countries, meaning that more young people will now be able to apply.

Spain and New Zealand to increase number of working holiday visas

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced the expansion of the Working Holiday or Youth Mobility Scheme after their meeting in Madrid held on Tuesday, ahead of the NATO Summit.

The increase means that 2,000 Spaniards and the same number of Kiwis will now be able to benefit from the scheme. This is 10 times more than the 200 visas currently available for each country. 

Those aged between 18 and 30 are eligible for the visa, which allows New Zealanders to come to Spain for one year to work for up to six months and travel or study and train for the other six months.

The only caveats are that you can’t accept a permanent job or work for the same employer for more than three months and you must prove that you have sufficient savings to live on. You are also not allowed to apply if you have any dependent children.

The same conditions apply to young Spaniards wanting to work and travel in New Zealand. 

The application process for 2022 is currently closed but will open again in 2023, with the increased number of visas available for each country.

“I am delighted to announce a boost to our Working Holiday Scheme with Spain. These schemes create opportunities for young New Zealanders to develop their skills and work experience while travelling and living in Spain,” Ardern said in a statement after the meeting.

“These changes reflect the strength of the relationship between Spain and New Zealand,” she added.

During their meeting, Sánchez and Arden also agreed on the need for a Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and the EU, creating opportunities for both New Zealand and Spanish businesses, as well as a plan to work together on a new seabird conservation project.

Other subjects discussed by the two leaders included a Global Values Partnership, committing to work closely on areas to strengthen democracy, sustainability, human rights and the rule of law, as well as Russia and the war in Ukraine.

Sánchez said that the partnership will serve to “build more inclusive societies, greener economies and more resilient democracies”.

“Meeting with President Sánchez was a chance to reaffirm our countries’ commitment to working together, and alongside others, to maintain international peace and security, and the rules-based order. It is fitting that our meeting took place in the lead-up to the NATO Summit,” Ardern said.