Labour market

38% of workers in Catalonia have been on furlough

Data from trade union UGT indicates 15% of inspections ended in a fine due to fraudulent claims

3 min
The government closes bars and restaurants.

BarcelonaWhen an organisation looks back on 2020, whatever kind of organisation it may be, it always brings up one particular point: the furlough scheme (ERTE) avoided a greater evil. On Monday, trade union UGT gave some supporting data: 1.2 million Catalans have been in this situation at some point between March 2020 and January this year. To reach this conclusion, which means that 38% of the working population of Catalonia have experienced furlough, the union has looked at the data of first-time recipients.

And from this they conclude that four out of ten workers in Catalonia have gone through a temporary suspension of their contract. "If we look at data from Idescat, 63.3% of companies have been directly affected, and in the case of hospitality [the degree of incidence] has reached 95.5% of establishments," explained Núria Gilgado, secretary of trade union policy of UGT Catalonia. "Overall, 43.9% of all establishments have not yet fully reemployed all the workers in this situation," she added. In fact, the union says that there are about 53,000 people who were put on furlough during the first wave of the pandemic (according to them, between March and October) and are yet to be readmitted.

"It has been an essential tool that has allowed thousands of jobs to be maintained," said Gilgado: "More than 1.2 million people have gone through this situation. This means spending a lot of public money." If the trade union spokeswoman has made the point it is because among the following issues that she has wanted to highlight is fraudulent claims. "We have detected many companies that have tried to take advantage of this public money through unjustified furlough," she denounced

According to the UGT, the Department of Labour of the Generalitat has made 708 furlough inspections, 15% of which have ended in a sanction. "To be able to review them all is complicated, because there are not enough means to do so, but from the union we have detected many frauds through the union delegates" explaining many simply took advantage of the scheme to make changes unrelated to the pandemic.

"Job insecurity means worse social services"

This situation has been captured by the union in a report that, in fact, seeks to analyse the impact of the pandemic on the economic, labour and social fabric. Among the issues of concern to this workers' organisation are, for example the unprecedented fall in GDP, the fact that prices have risen by 2% ("something that has made the most vulnerable families use more purchasing power to assume this price increase," said Gilgado) or the unemployment rate which aggravates an already complicated situation considering that the indicator had not yet fallen to pre-crisis levels

"We were in a situation in which the economy was growing and wage gains were growing, but this did not have an impact on wages: there was only a part of the population that had emerged from the crisis, but the majority of the working population had not yet done so," said Gilgado. "Precarious employment has direct consequences in many areas: precarious employment and wages mean fewer contributions and worse social services," she added.

In fact, with this report the union seeks to make proposals for the economic recovery. The priority, they say, is to repeal the labor reform, pension reform and increase minimum wage. They also believe there should be a Catalan minimum wage reference (which should be around €1,200 per month) and start thinking about the 32-hour working week. And beyond this, that furlough schemes continue beyond the health crisis, that the labour inspection is strengthened and that European funds are used to undertake the transformation of the socio-economic model of the country. Because, according to Gilgado, the crisis has only meant a bad situation has got worse.