Shift work reaches a record figure in Asturias with one in four employees


Clockwise, Ramón Ángel López, employee of Duro Felguera; Yolanda Palacio, home help; María José Caballero, nurse; and Luis Manuel García, an Arcelor worker.

The Principality is the second community with the highest percentage, 87,000 people exercise their professional activity thanks to this system

Suzana Weaver

Asturias is among the communities in which the largest number of workers carry out their tasks in teams, in fact, statistics show that one in four employees carry out their work through this system.

Comparing the Spanish autonomous communities, the Principality takes second place, with a percentage of 26.7% of their total. It is very closely preceded by the Canary Islands, with 26.9%. According to the different fields, men or women are more numerous in this rotation system, men in industry and women in the field of health. In absolute values, we conclude that nearly 87,000 of employees are in teams. Of this count, 48,100 are men and 38,900 are women.

By comparing the data with those of the previous year, we see that there is an increase in the general calculation. Thus, in 2020, the figures speak of a total of 74,700, which rises to almost 87,000 a year later. If we look back, over the past three decades, today’s numbers have not even been reached by a long shot.



María José Caballero has worked as a nurse in hospitals for three decades. / this

“When your abilities are at their maximum, you can no longer”

The nursing profession is one of the professions that suffers the most from displacement and not only, but it is impossible to eradicate it. María José Caballero knows this well, since 1984 she has worked in several hospitals in Asturias and three years ago she joined a health center. Most nurses begin this job between the ages of 21 and 23, and shift work is incorporated into their daily work. some never get rid of this modality and those who do do so after 30 years at the base of the canyon, he says. “Our work requires a lot of attention, you always have to be vigilant”, and with intense shifts and many nights, it is “difficult to maintain a high level of vigilance”. Stress is built forever. Like sleeping and eating disorders. “You never sleep well again.” “Eight in the morning comes, you have a huge stress level and you’re supposed to rest, but they tell you that until two hours later the adrenaline doesn’t start to drop, how are you going to sleep? ” The solution is to switch to other services such as health centres. “When your abilities are at their maximum, you can no longer. It’s a pain.”


What is the reason for this increase and why is the Principality at the top of these statistics? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What are the consequences for those who are governed by this modality? Here are some questions about the current employment situation in this region. Answers? Those who have experienced it for years and those who continue to perform their professional duties in this way today have many responses to these approaches. But what is certain is that the lives of people who belong to professions that work in shifts must be organized to achieve the necessary family reconciliation, apart from other daily and particular problems. And that is not easy.



Yolanda Palacio, home help, calls for more attention to her job. juan carlos tuero / JC Tuero

“If we are essential, why are our hours not valued?

Yolanda Palacio has been dedicated to home care for three decades. It speaks to the feminine because for years almost all the workers have been women, men are already joining it, something positive on one side and negative on the other. “Many women are reluctant to be bathed by a man, ‘I will see what mine has not seen’, they say” and this complicates the situation. She, who raised her daughter alone, knows well how difficult it is to reconcile life and shifts. “Despite the fact that in this job I didn’t have to go there at night.” But the endless mornings that last until the wee hours of the afternoon, or the split hours in which the end of the day arrives at ten o’clock in the evening, have conditioned his life… And that of his parents , who helped take care of their little girl. She claims that “if we are essential, how is it possible that they do not take into account our schedules?”, She wonders. Early retirement is one of the demands. “Until I turn 67, I will not be able to retire and my health will be compromised.” Food and sleep imbalances are something you’ve already come to terms with. “You go to bed earlier to play and assume your schedules are what they are.”

Health, safety, industry, home care, services, telemarketers, taxi drivers, cleaning staff, storekeepers… The areas subject to this work discipline are numerous and the quadrants are an integral part of their working day.

The type of sectors and “custom” are two of the arguments put forward by Gerardo L. Argüelles, responsible for Trade Union Action CC OO, to explain the fact that Asturias is at the top of the list. “It’s an established culture of the past and very difficult to eradicate,” he says. According to him, more and more companies want to offer a service in the longest time slot, which values ​​this shift system. The fact that certain sectors have more weight in this region also favors shift work, particularly industry, with “unstoppable cycles”.



Ramón Ángel López at the gates of the Tallerón de Duro Felguera. / TO

“When I manage to sleep three hours in a row I drool”

Thirty years at Duro Felguera in three teams is very hard for Ramón Ángel López. Far from adapting, it costs more each time. “At 20 you sleep standing up, but now at 52 it’s getting harder and harder for me.” He sleeps and eats badly, he laments. “When I manage to sleep for three hours in a row I drool; Most of the time I get up and start watching TV because I can’t fall asleep, sometimes I even go to work without sleeping”. One week he wakes up at five in the morning and the next he has to go to bed at seven in the morning, “how do you explain it to your body? “. He is in the Tallerón and remembers when he started that there was “more humanity towards the workers”, something that he says has disappeared. “Reconciliation is very complicated. It’s not just about eating and sleeping, it’s about going out and socializing and those times change everything.” He has two children he would like to see more of and share some time with them. “I don’t see myself at 65 years with this rhythm of life, but we tell you that there are no compatible positions and it is clear that at a certain age we lose the skills and the agility that we need when we have to do a complicated and risky task.”

The CC OO is concerned about these data, because “it has been shown to have a great impact on people’s health, including sleep disorders, difficult family reconciliations and psychological disorders”.

Negative consequences

And the UGT union also speaks of these evils when analyzing a situation it knows well. “Shift work has negative consequences on work, personal and family life and on health,” says Javier Fernández Lanero, its general secretary. Gastrointestinal disorders, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and greater severity of accidents are, according to him, among the most frequent and visible aspects of this work system. Both unions insist on setting limits to minimize these negative consequences. “More flexibility on the part of companies, establishing limits and compensation in relation to breaks, breaks” are some of the proposals of CC OO.



Luis Manuel García, an Arcelor worker, does not want to give up the bonuses he receives. / LG

“Life has a cost and I can’t do without it now”

For Luis Manuel García, continuing to work as a team is not a bad option. He did it for fourteen years at Alcoa and for a few months in his position at Arcelor he continued with the same regime. “We have the green shift, in three-way rotation, structured into five shifts with three breaks, five shifts with three breaks and five shifts with four breaks, I’m comfortable in all of them. ” For him, there are advantages, in particular the rest regime and the financial compensation. “If I left him, I wouldn’t have a bonus and that ultimately shows in the salary.” In fact, he had a chance to change but he didn’t. “Life has a cost and I can’t live without it.” He admits, however, that since he has a daughter (now 6 years old), it is more difficult for him not to enjoy weekends and holidays with her. “Working the Christmas holidays, days like Christmas Eve, Christmas and traveling around the world is hard, I miss being able to spend those days with my daughter, but you can’t have it all in this life.” Moreover, he considers that the system in which he finds himself is better than that of others. “It’s more relaxing than if we always did in the morning.”

Argüelles also believes that it would be necessary for the worker himself to have the opportunity to choose when joining this work system and to be assigned according to his personal needs. “People’s situations should be assessed individually and the cycles used should be short.”

The “rational and compensatory passage from a night shift to a day shift, a schedule of shifts agreed and known in advance” by those who are going to be subjected to it are some of the essential approaches on which Lanero insists.

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