Union hours: Can they be verified by hiring a private detective?

Union Hours

Trade union time credit is one of the guarantees granted by the Workers' Statute to trade union representatives and trade union representatives of workers so that they can carry out their functions of representation and defence of the interests of these workers in an efficient and orderly manner.

However, this work, protected by the Spanish Constitution as part of the right to freedom of association, is subject to a series of obligations whose non-compliance - through misuse and/or abuse - could be detrimental to the employer and its organisation.

What happens when the workers' representative uses the paid hours dedicated to trade union representation and defence for other activities unrelated to their legitimate purpose? What formalities can the employer request when exercising the trade union hours credit? Is it legal to use private detectives to verify the correct use of these hours? What evidence can be presented in court in these cases?

Expert Analysis

Based on this premise, Grupo Paradell, a consultancy firm specialising in the fight against digital and corporate risks, has brought together several experts to analyse the role of the trade union representative, a key figure in organisations, and to analyse how companies can use their private detective services to detect and combat cases of fraud that have been carried out.

The first expert to speak was Xavier Pera, lawyer and advisor to the Garrigues labour department, who, in addition to the purpose of the aforementioned trade union time credit, alluded to other fundamental workers' rights enshrined in the workers' statute, such as the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining and freedom of assembly.

Asked about the possibility and feasibility of accumulation of union hours, the lawyer pointed out that "the workers' statute provides that it will be possible to agree by collective bargaining on the accumulation of hours of the different members of the works council or staff". delegates in one or more of its components, without in any case exceeding the total maximum and remaining the person with whom the free hours are accumulated without prejudice to his or her remuneration".

Hiring Private Detectives

Is it possible to hire the services of private detectives to verify the correct use of union hours by workers' representatives? "Case law is restrictive on the use of detectives to verify credit hours. Therefore, surveillance and control by detectives is allowed, but should only be used when there are reasons or consistent evidence of misuse of credit hours," said an expert on the matter.

In this regard, the expert also warned of the need to define when there is legitimate control over the use of credit hours by the employer and when this control implies interference in trade union representative and trade union activity. It is therefore necessary to determine when control over the use of credit hours may involve the aforementioned interference and to set limits to this control, as control by the workers' representative is not possible".

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