In the summer months many restaurant workers are employed illegally. :: SUR
Economic necessity leads people to be quite ingenious in finding ways to make it to the end of the month, but not everyone does it legally. There has been a sharp increase in cheating while claiming unemployment benefit in the first six months of this year in Malaga province, where work inspectors have detected 30.95 per cent more cases of cheating than in the same period in 2012. The frauds, which mainly consist of claiming benefit while working or falsifying their details to obtain the money, has led to this payment being withdrawn from 223 people this year, according to details provided from the Inspection department, and this does not include subsidies for occasional agricultural workers.
The repayment of the money which had been fraudulently obtained has made the authorities’ coffers 1,499,456 euros better off, but it is not only individuals who have been fined for irregularities in unemployment benefit claims. So far this year 45 companies have been fined for employing workers who were claiming unemployment benefit and those fines totalled 395,550 euros. These cases are 40.46 per cent higher than the number detected between January and June last year.
These figures are partly due to an increase in the number of inspections by the government, as part of the campaign against fraud which it began in April 2012. In the case of companies in Malaga province, the inspections have increased by 13.31 per cent, while the number of workers who were investigated has risen by 35.86 per cent compared with the first six months of 2012.
Higher than the average
However, the level of cheating is greater in this province than in Spain as a whole. While in Malaga the number of people who have lost their unemployment benefit because they were not entitled to it has risen by nearly 31 per cent in the past year, on a national level this percentage increase is 14.8 per cent. In absolute numbers, 60,004 people all over the country have lost their unemployment payments, which has resulted in an economic improvement of 915.2 million euros for the State finances.
The unions say they are in favour of any type of fraud being fought, “no matter who is committing it”, but they claim that workers who claim benefit without being entitled to it are being “criminalised” if they did so through necessity and not out of speculation or to become rich. “It is strange that the weakest are made to pay instead of the unscrupulous business owners who take advantage of the situation of poverty of some people”, says the general secretary of the CC OO in Malaga, Antonio Herrera, who is calling for the government to “release enough finance to increase the resources of the tax and work inspection authorities”.
“Everyone should obey the law, but those who defraud huge amounts of money find it easier to cheat”, agrees María AuxiliadoraJiménez, the provincial head of the UGT.
At present, unemployment payments in Malaga province are about 81.6 million euros, divided between dole payments (46.5 million euros), subsidies (25.1 million), active insertion income (5.3 million) and agricultural subsidies (4.6 million). In total, in June 112,973 people received some type of payment, with the average being 791.90 euros a month.
In its campaign to fight fraud, the Ministry of Employment has set up a virtual message box so that people can anonymously report situations that they consider to be irregular with regard to employment, Social Security or prevention of risks. This means that if someone believes their neighbour is working and also claiming unemployment benefit, or knows that some of their fellow workers are not being employed legally, can let the authorities know by filling out a simple form on the web page www.empleo.gob.es/. On the form, they should include the details of the company in question and a brief description of the supposed fraud.
This message box has been criticised by the PSOE and IU political parties and also by some of the unions. The CCOO and UGT believe the Ministry of Employment should establish mechanisms and invest in resources to detect fraud instead of using a system that turns people into “whistleblowers”, which they consider “unbecoming in a democracy”, as theprovincial leaders of both unions have complained.
Apart from this anonymous online system, any person can ask the Work Inspection and Social Security authorities to carry out an investigation, by presenting a written request at the provincial offices - in Malaga city there is one at Calle de Babel, number 2 - if they are aware of anything that is happening that they believe could be considered a contravention of the law.