The end of the tolls will leave 408 workers without work in Catalonia

Only maintenance staff will continue after September 1

3 min
Image of the AP-7 toll at the height of La Roca

August 31 will be the last day that tolls will be paid on the AP-7 between Salou and La Jonquera; on the AP-2, the motorway that links the AP-7 with Zaragoza via Lleida; on the northern stretch of the C-32 between Montgat and Palafolls; and pm the C-33, between Barcelona and Montmeló. What seems to be good news for users is not good news for workers. As ARA has learnt, the lifting of tolls will entail a labour force adjustment plan (ERE) in Abertis, whose concession will end. It will affect 408 workers, most of whom work collecting tolls

The Spanish government, owner of the AP-7 and AP-2, and the Generalitat, owner of the C-32 and C-33, would only keep on the 231 maintenance staff, as the central government did with the end of the toll on the AP-7 between Alicante and Tarragona and the AP-4. At that time, identical to what will happen now, 136 employees lost their jobs. When consulted by this newspaper, Abertis spokespersons limited themselves to saying that the figure is still being negotiated and they maintain that there will be around 400 workers affected by the plan.

Looking at the figures in more detail, 525 people from Abertis' subsidiary, Acesa, are currently working on the AP-7 and AP-2, of which 190 are dedicated to maintenance. As for the C-32 and C-33 Invicat, which is also a subsidiary of Abertis, has a staff of 114 people, of which 41 also do road maintenance work.

Both the Spanish government and the Generalitat, which from 1 September will have to take charge of both the maintenance and operation of these roads, have already begun to pull strings but at very different paces. The central government, after requesting all the documentation for the AP-7 and AP-2 from Acesa, decided on 30 March to put five maintenance contracts out to tender valued at €655m (€541m plus VAT) for the different sections of these motorways. The contracts will have a duration of two years and can be extended for a further three years. In addition to these tenders, the government has also put a €19m contract out to tender to manage the operations centre of these motorways. As for the Generalitat, it has only asked Invicat for information on the C-32 and C-33 but has not yet put out any kind of tender despite the fact that there are just over four months to go before the toll concessions run out.

The same compensations as those of Tarragona

The negotiations for the labour force adjustment plan, which are compulsory by law, will start in early July. If there are no surprises, these workers will receive the same compensation as those of the Abertis subsidiary, Aumar, which held the concession of the AP-7 to Tarragona. They will receive 45 days' pay per year at the company with a maximum of 42 months for workers prior to 2012 and 33 days' pay per year at the company with a maximum of 24 months thereafter. The agreement also included other complementary measures such as a special agreement for those affected who are over 55 or medical insurance for a year.

The stretch of the AP-7 between Salou and Alicante lifted tolls on January 1, 2020. More than a year later, the future of the high-capacity roads is still unresolved. The Spanish government has not clarified whether a pay-per-use model will be imposed, such as a vignette. This is precisely the option that the Generalitat has always defended because it would allow to raise funds to maintain the roads and, at the same time, guarantee new investments.

The end of the four concessions comes in one of the worst moments that Abertis is going through, after 2020 was its first year to end in losses. This is due to the fall in traffic lockdown caused. Specifically, the losses were €392m, a figure that is far from the €352m profits of 2019. The company, owned by the Italian Atlantis and the Spanish construction company ACS - owned by Florentino Perez - earned €4,054m last year, 18% less than in 2019.

To compensate for the fall in traffic Abertis asked for an extension on the concessions but the Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, has made it clear on several occasions that the tolls end on August 31.