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BUDGET CUTS

Low-earning state workers exempt from bonus blow

Poorer civil servants to get Christmas payment as finance minister denies lack of policy coordination

Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro on Tuesday came out with a curiously belated but welcome surprise for civil servants earning less than 1.5 times the minimum wage by explaining that, unlike the rest of Spain’s public sector workers, they will not be deprived of their traditional extra monthly payment at Christmas time.

Speaking in the Senate, Montoro took pains to emphasize that the exception was included in the official state gazette (BOE) published last Saturday, which contained details of a series of spending cuts and tax hikes worth 65 billion euros over the next two and a half years, the biggest austerity package since democracy was restored in Spain over 30 years ago.

“I have announced something that was published in the BOE,” the minister said. “Let’s see if I am lucky and many people who are feeling distress from these measures now feel relieved."

The exemption, which applies to those earning less than 962 euros a month, or 13,469 a year, was not mentioned by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy when he unveiled the measures last Wednesday, nor by Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría or Montoro himself at a news conference on Friday after they were approved by the Cabinet. “What we usually do at a news conference is to summarize,” Montoro said when later asked by reporters if his department had simply forgotten to mention the exception.

The minister said the dispensation for lower wage earners would affect between 10,000 and 15,000 state employees, but did not offer figures for civil servants at other levels of the public administration, whose total workforce amounts to more than 2.69 million.

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