The stoppage decreed by the state of alarm has dealt a severe blow to the labor market. The health crisis is causing an avalanche of job suspensions (ERTE). Companies use this formula before starting layoffs. The number of people affected by ERTE now amounts to more than 1.5 million people affected, according to data collected by EL PAÍS from 13 autonomous communities and the Ministry of Labor. This calculation includes estimates for Madrid —the community most affected by the pandemic—, Murcia and the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, three regions that will suffer greatly from this crisis due to the weight of tourism in the economy.
Spain has become familiar in a few days with the meaning of the word ERTE, which stands for temporary employment regulation file. Since the state of alarm was declared, the Administrations have processed nearly 200,000 files. The number of affected people counted by EL PAÍS is already close to 1.25 million and when adding the estimates of workers from Madrid, Murcia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, the figure exceeds 1.5 million employees affected by ERTE. In other words, between 12% and 15% of the employees registered in the general Social Security system in February would have been included in a work suspension file.
Almost half of the officially confirmed ERTE come from two communities: in Catalonia there are 342,000 workers with suspended employment, and in Andalusia, the Board projects that there are about 280,000, based on the fact that it has 37,363 files submitted with an average of 7.5 employees for each. Madrid still does not disclose the data on those affected, but they cannot be far from these two, due to the size of its economy and the impact of the health crisis, since it is the epicenter of the epidemic. At the moment what is known is that 15,000 files have been submitted, as announced by the Minister of Economy and Employment on Tuesday. Murcia does the same. And Aragon only updates its figure weekly: last Friday’s revealed that there were 3,307 workers affected. Nor would the numbers for the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands be there. Unofficial sources from the latter estimated that there will now be slightly more than 30,000 affected workers.
They do update the data of other Administrations such as the Ministry of Labor, which processes files for 140,000 employees, the Valencian Community, 120,066, and Castilla y León, 101,765.
The expression of several regional officials contacted is that they are “overwhelmed” with the avalanche. They try to respond quickly. The deadlines set by the decree that the government approved last week to expedite the processing of ERTE caused by the coronavirus are five days. The Department of Labor of the Generalitat de Catalunya is one of the most overwhelmed. In just over a week, it has received 41,555 records, the highest number among all communities. “This information is normally published once a month and is reviewed in time. Now we are updating it every day, and we have only five days to certify that the ERTE are well presented, if it is not administrative silence and it goes ahead, “explains a department spokesperson.
The stress to which the review system is subjected means that in Catalonia the data on how many files have been presented due to force majeure, or how many are being dismissed, are not yet released. In Asturias, where the volume is much lower, they do offer more disaggregated data, although the ERTE avalanche has also overwhelmed them: “We have to review them all very quickly, and we found some duplicates or some, very few, alleging force majeure. and it does not fit ”, they explain in the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Economic Promotion.
When you hear the figures, you are not surprised. Remember that the Government manages a forecast of about two million affected workers. “Until now ERTE have been produced in smaller companies and in the service sector,” says Mari Cruz Vicente, secretary of Union Action at CC OO. From his words it appears that many of the companies that have grabbed the headlines so far (Iberia, Renault, Seat, Volkswagen, Burger King, Tendam), are rather the exception.
“In the first lists of companies we saw, few exceeded 100. Now the size is growing.” These words are confirmed by yesterday’s announcement by El Corte Inglés, that it will present an ERTE for 22,000 employees or Inditex’s plans to carry it out if the situation continues beyond April 15.
What this Basque unionist demands is that the Administration take extreme care so that there are no abuses. He complains that his organization observes that there are sectors such as those dedicated to public subcontracting, which could not benefit from the suspension of employment due to “force majeure”. For this reason, it calls on the state and regional administrations to increase vigilance.
“The exponential increase is very striking. What cannot be is that all companies take advantage of the ERTE measures due to force majeure ”, warns Cristina Torre, secretary of CCOO Trade Union Action in Catalonia. The union asks the Govern to be “strict” in the review, and suggests that many companies “could adapt their activity to produce items that are needed now, without the need to suspend the employment of their workers.” The same is remembered by the UGT, which points out that the Catalan Government, shielded the jobs of companies that have suspended public contracts. “The suspension of contracts cannot be considered a reason for the application of files,” he points out.
The deputy secretary general of this union, Cristina Antoñanzas, also demands that “force majeure” not be abused as a cause of dismissal. And it draws attention to the dismissal that they have detected on temporary workers, which is more difficult for them to accumulate the time required to access the aid.
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