Sunday, 8 January 2012
Scams and Fiddles
I used an unfamiliar term to some people the other day - Spanish practices - without explaining what it means.
So my apologies - I should have taken more time and trouble.
Because a 'Spanish practice' is really means is a scam - or a fiddle - a way of exploiting a situation for unreasonable personal gain.
In the past the term was associated with working practices in the newspapers and the printing industry - a forgotten world of dinosaur employers, reactionary trade unions, closed shops - and women working for pin money.
But here's an interesting article by Giles Tremlett - who writes for the Guardian newspaper on Spain and Spanish affairs.
Giles has also written an excellent English language book - 'The Ghosts of Spain' - an account of modern Spain and what makes the country tick - in the post Franco era.
Anyway here's what Giles has to say about Spanish practices.
"Spanish practices are really a British invention. The term evolved over centuries until it was taken to mean the absurd, inherited rights of some UK trades unionists. Old Fleet Street was a classic of the kind.
But do Spanish practices exist in Spain? If you look at the way collective bargaining is carried out, you can see why they might. Deals are automatically extended if employers and unions cannot reach a fresh agreement. Because of this, 40% of agreements are nine years old or more; 30% exceed 13 years old. Spaniards call these zombie deals.
Civil service demarcation rules can make things especially bad. A minister or mayor who wants to lessen the number or use of official cars immediately has a problem. The cars' drivers can only, according to union deals, drive cars. They cannot be moved to another job.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the (ex-Socialist) prime minister, has already dealt with the biggest abusers – Spain's air traffic controllers. Their exaggerated overtime rules produced average annual wage packets of €350,000 (£308,000). Reforms by the Zapatero government could soon nail open-ended collective bargaining deals.
For the moment, though, Spain does suffer a little from something that is, ironically, a British stereotype carrying – offensively to some – a Spanish name."
So in deference to Giles and the many blog site readers from Spain - I am henceforth dropping the reference to 'Spanish' when referring to such scams and fiddles.
In future I'll use something else because Spanish practices is just a phrase to descibe dodgy or greedy workplace scams and fiddles - from all around the world.
Not just in Madrid but in London too - Scotland as well for that matter.