The Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, is no longer going to meet her objective of having an agreement signed for the extension of the ERTE on January 15, with time before they expire on the next day 31. At the meeting that this Thursday In the afternoon, the Government, employers and representatives of the workers have maintained, that longed-for meeting point has not taken place.
Very graphically, Unai Sordo, Secretary General of Comisiones Obreras, declared to Europa Press that “the swords are still high” at the negotiating table to extend the temporary employment regulation files beyond January 31 and foreseeably until January 31 May, once the current state of alarm has ended.
The point of friction is found in the so-called safeguard clause that accompanies the files linked to the pandemic and that supposes that companies that have carried out an ERTE and have benefited from exemptions from Social Security contributions of their workers are obliged to keep employment for six months. If they don’t, they have to pay back the social security contributions they have saved, not just for the laid off workers, but for their entire workforce.
The employer wants this clause to be removed. Specifically, they propose to make “a proportionate interpretation” of it, so that, for example, not having to return all the exemptions of all workers when not all are dismissed.
The unions are against it. Sordo says that the six-month commitment begins to run after a worker from an ERTE rejoins, so “many companies have gone through a good part of those six months.” And he adds that if there are companies that have not incorporated any employee, “surely they have a more serious problem than that of employment commitment.” And the Ministry of Labor is also inclined to keep it. The holder of the portfolio, Yolanda Díaz, is in favor of maintaining the prohibition of dismissal, that companies that resort to this labor relief cannot distribute dividends, nor ask their workers to work overtime, to which is added the commitment to maintain employment for six months. “The clauses for maintaining employment will be exactly the same, this is implicit with the system itself,” Díaz declared this Wednesday.
“CC OO is not going to give in on the employment maintenance commitments that companies that take advantage of an ERTE must have,” said Unai Sordo, who added that Spain cannot make an effort of “surely more than 20,000 million euros “To sustain employment and assume the salaries and contributions that leave the company” and not ask in return that the companies cannot lay off in a while.
The social agents, as this newspaper learned from sources of the negotiation, already have a new government document to study. And they are awaiting the call for a new appointment to clear the uncertainty of the around 755,610 workers who were still affected by a temporary file at the end of December – well below the peak of the pandemic, when they became more of 3.4 million-. There are only two ordinary councils of ministers so that the next extension of the ERTE can be approved before the current one expires on the 31st and the Executive’s idea was to approve it on the next one, on the 19th. There is still time for the negotiation. But the experience of the past extensions shows that the agreement tends to arrive ‘in extremis’, almost at the bell of the expiration date.
The Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, in addition to maintaining the clause for the maintenance of employment, advocates that the workers affected by ERTE will also continue to have access to the benefit without a grace period, the period of unemployment consumed until January of 2022 and the benefit will be equal to 70% of the regulatory base. Likewise, Trabajo wants the new extension of the ERTEs to benefit the same sectors that so far have been welcoming them.