Civil guards at Barcelona airport highly stressed
Police at El Prat say they can't even visit the toilet without permission.27 May 2008
BARCELONA - The Civil Guards at Barcelona's El Prat airport are under stress. Not because of overwork, but because their bosses ride them. They watch them with security cameras and reprimand them for trivialities, and the guards even have to ask their permission to go to the bathroom.
Of El Prat's 300 guards, about 90 percent suffer workplace harassment, according to the Civil Guard association AUGC.
However, the Civil Guard chief at the airport, Pedro Pizarro, says that the level of stress is "the usual for a delicate job."
He admits that one of the systems used to supervise his subordinates are the cameras, and that the guards must keep him informed when they go to the bathroom. He even admits that he corrects them fairly often, but says that this is for the sake of good service to the public.
"Air security is vital, and requires strict supervision. Does this generate stress? Maybe. But we can't permit slip-ups," the commander says.
The AUGC complaints are aimed not so much at Pizarro as at "some chiefs who get on people's case," in the words of the association spokesman Juan Antonio Delgado. "Their way is to badger you, so that you are more worried about the chief coming up behind you with a reprimand than about doing your work properly," he adds.
Responding to "constant" complaints and "numerous" stress-related leaves of absence, the AUGC decided to distribute among some guards a questionnaire about the harassment experienced.
It went to almost 10 percent of the staff, which Delgado considers a representative sample.
It includes questions such as how the guards perceive the prestige of their job, and whether they feel they are being intimidated through verbal threats, shouting or humiliation in public.
Women especially mention this last aspect; men speak more of interference with their work, and of inadequate communication with their superiors.
The results are "astonishing," in the association's view. The final report, signed in April by a psychologist, reveals that most of those surveyed are subject to a level of harassment so that they may suffer "anxiety, stress and adaptive disorders."
According to Delgado, most of those affected are "recently out of the training school, and don't dare say anything about the abuse."
Pizarro argues that "more than 60 percent" of the officers at the airport are veterans who could easily obtain another posting. He also claims that only three people are on sick leave for psychological reasons.
[El Pais / Jesus Garcia / Expatica]