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EU Court rules on Spanish use of rolling fixed-term contracts

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EU Court rules on Spanish use of rolling fixed-term contracts

Nursing

(LUXEMBOURG) - The use of successive fixed-term contracts to cover permanent needs in the healthcare sector are contrary to EU law, the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday.

The case concerned a nurse at the University Hospital of Madrid, Ms Maria Elena Perez Lopez, who had been recruited in 2009 to cover temporary needs, then had her contract renewed seven times under identically worded fixed-term contracts.

Shortly before her last contract expired, in March 2013, she was informed she would be appointed again, even though she had worked without a break for the hospital between February 2009 and June 2013. Meanwhile, she was informed that her employment relationship would subsequently cease.

Ms Perez Lopez appealed, arguing that her successive appointments were not intended to meet a temporary need. The Spanish court before which the legal proceedings were brought asked the EU Court of Justice whether the Spanish legislation which allows the renewal of fixed-term contracts in the healthcare sector infringes the EU's framework agreement on fixed-term work - under which the Member States must introduce measures to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts and thereby avoid job insecurity for employees.

The EU Court finds that EU law precludes national legislation which allows the renewal of fixed-term contracts to cover temporary staff needs, when those needs are, in fact, permanent.

The framework agreement requires EU Member States to make provision in their legislation, with a view to preventing abusive use of fixed-term contracts, for at least one of the following three measures by any means they choose: (1) the objective grounds on which renewal of the fixed-term contract may be justified, (2) the total maximum duration for which such contracts may be concluded successively and (3) the number of possible renewals of such contracts.

The Court also notes that the Spanish administration is under no obligation to create permanent posts and is permitted to fill posts by hiring temporary staff without limitation either as to the duration of the contracts or the number of their renewals. It follows that the insecure situation of workers is perpetuated.

Spanish legislation, by allowing the renewal of fixed-term contracts in order to cover fixed and permanent needs, despite the existence of a structural deficit of posts, infringes the framework agreement, says the Court.

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