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Unions and bosses disagree with ministers over furloughing plans

Business and workers leaders with ministers in Palma earlier this month.
Business and workers leaders with ministers in Palma earlier this month. / EFE
  • The government has been accused of "sleight of hand" in its draft agreement to extend ERTEs beyond 30 September

Negotiations aimed at getting the ERTE furloughing scheme extended to the end of January 2021 from the end of September were stalled this week.

Ministers met with union and company leaders in Palma de Mallorca earlier this month but there is still no agreement and, unusually, workers and bosses find themselves on the same side against the government. Some involved are even accusing ministers of manipulating them.

Business representatives accuse the government of deliberately exaggerating the cost of the ERTE scheme, and the numbers taking part so far, in order to justify its view that it needs to be less generous from now on. Neither bosses nor unions are in favour of a blanket exclusion or inclusion of certain sectors or types of company, but want a more versatile tool for hardest-hit workers; they don't believe the government's draft agreement will achieve this.

The large UGT union has accused Madrid of "sleight of hand", adding clauses that weren't discussed earlier. The union doesn't want people's rights to future social security cash, if made unemployed, to start to be eroded after 180 days receiving ERTE benefits. "They could have told us in Palma and we wouldn't have posed for such a happy photo," the UGT said.

On Thursday, it appeared the government would cave in and not erode future social security rights on ERTEs in force up to end of January.

Unions also want the obligation for firms to keep a worker at least six months after bringing them back from furloughing to stay, which businesses don't. Ministers said on Thursday that the restriction could stay and were working on a revised draft to present to unions and business leaders, despite little sign of any complete agreement on its contents soon.