18/02/16 Spanish civil servant skips work for years

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Joaquín García failed to show up for his job at the water board for at least six years

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

skip work (informal): to fail to attend; to miss

to be posted: to send (someone) to a place to take up an appointment

waste: unwanted or unusable material(s), substances or by-products

on the payroll: a list of a company’s employees and the amount of money they are to be paid

to fine s.b. (for s.t): punish (someone) for an illegal or illicit act by making them pay a sum of money

to turn up: to attend

to be sidelined: to be removed from the centre of activity or attention; to be placed in a less influential position

to make the most of s.t.: to use s.t. to your best advantage


Only when Joaquín García, a Spanish civil servant, was due to collect an award for two decades of loyal and dedicated service did anyone realise that he had not, in fact, shown up to work for at least six years – and possibly as many as 14.

García, a 69-year-old engineer, began working for the local authority in the south-western city of Cádiz in 1990, according to el Mundo, and in 1996 was posted to the municipal water board, Agua de Cadiz, where his job was to supervise a waste water treatment plant.

In 2010, when García – who has now retired – was due to collect his long-service medal, the man who had hired him, deputy mayor Jorge Blas Fernández, wondered where he was: “He was still on the payroll,” he told the paper. “I thought, where is this man? Is he still there? Has he retired? Has he died?”

After the former manager of the water board, who had the office opposite Garcia’s, told Fernández he had not seen his employee for several years, the deputy mayor called the engineer in. “I asked him: what are you doing?” Fernández said. “What did you do yesterday? And the previous month? He could not answer.”

A court this week fined Garcia €27,000 (£21,000), the equivalent after tax of one year of his annual salary, having earlier found that the engineer did not appear to have occupied his office for “at least six years” and had done “absolutely no work” between 2007 and 2010, the year before he retired.

to skive (a skiver): to avoid work or a duty by staying away or leaving early.

“She used to skive (off) lessons.” 

“You are such a skiver! You’re always taking cigarette breaks!”

García told the court that he had turned up to the office, although he admitted he may not have kept regular business hours. He said he was the victim of workplace bullying because of his family’s socialist politics and had been deliberately sidelined at the water board.

The tribunal concluded that the water board had believed García was the responsibility of the city council for most of the period of his employment, while the city council thought he was working for the water board.

The engineer made the most of the confusion, becoming an avid reader of philosophy and an expert on the works of Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher credited with laying the foundations of the Enlightenment.

“Let’s chat about that!”

  • What is your opinion of Joaquin Garcia?
    Is he clever/lazy/crafty? All three?
  • What is your opinion of his bosses and colleagues? And the companies involved?
  • What do you think of the punishment he was given? Was it fair/lenient/harsh?
  • If you had the possibility of doing the same as Joaquin, would you? Why (not)?
  • What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂


Read the original article from the Guardian here

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