by Irene Taylor
IT'S goodbye to long leisurely lunches and a siesta for Spanish workers as Ignacio Buqueras, head of the committee whose task it is to bring Spanish working hours into line with those of the rest of Europe, says that by 2009, 80 to 90 per cent of Spanish workers will see a substantial change in their working habits. He reckons that they will be starting work between 7.30 and 8.30am, will have just a 45 minute break for lunch but will have finished for the day by 6pm at the latest. Buqueras said that from next month, his committee will be converted into an Observatory which, in collaboration with universities and the International Work and Family Centre, will study the timetables of various sectors and communities to provide local administrations with information before the changes are introduced. He was in Palma to present his committee's white paper, Spain on European Time, accompanied by Balearic minister of labour Cristobal Huguet.
He said that changes in working practices for civil servants introduced by the central government at the beginning of the year went a long way towards reconciling family and working life, but he warned that they would be meaningless unless they were applied to all the workers in the sector. He said it should be “a good example” for the business world and added that he was due to have talks with José María Cuevas, chairman of the business federation CEOE. Buqueras added that many businessmen believed rationalising work was the same as reducing the working day, when in fact it was a question of “making the working hours more effective.” Spanish working hours have made the country the “least productive” in Europe. Productivity, he said, is not achieved by spending more hours at the workplace but by making better use of them. “It is not the same to be at work as working,” he added. He pointed out that up to the 1930s, Spanish working hours were similar to Europe. But post war poverty, which forced many people to take on two jobs, brought about the change in hours.