Queuing at the social security offices in Palma. | Miquel À. Cañellas


On Wednesday last week, Fernando Martorell of the UGT union in the Balearics went to the social security offices in Palma. He did so as a spokesperson for a multi-union group that is conscious of personnel shortages in public administration. He wanted to inform the people waiting at the offices why they were in long queues and experiencing delays. "We distributed leaflets and talked to the people, so that they understood that this is a Spanish government problem."

The state administration in the Balearics currently employs around 10,000 people. These are the workers at social security, employment and immigration offices, and Martorell stresses that there aren't nearly enough of them - he reckons that around 1,000 more are needed simply in order to be able to provide a "fairly normal service".

Solutions to the shortages are in the hands of Madrid, but Martorell says that rather than coming up with "valid solutions", the Spanish government talks about reducing attention time devoted to each person so as to make this attention "more fluid". All this does is lead to a further deterioration in the quality of service. "They want to alleviate the problem by squeezing the existing staff more and dealing with the needs of each citizen in ten minutes, when in some cases half an hour isn't enough. We are giving worse service than other regions."

Yolanda Calvo of the CCOO union says that prospects of resolving staff shortages in the Balearics are far worse than in other regions because the islands aren't an attractive option. It's a lament familiar to shortages of other public employees, e.g. court officials, and of employees in the private sector - the cost of living in the Balearics.

Calvo explains that the problem has worsened because of a constant population increase - almost 130,000 more people over the past ten years, around 11%. Staff numbers, on the other hand, have remained the same; employees are increasingly less able to deal with people's needs.