Renfe and Ferrovial negotiated for hours on Wednesday a consensual solution for the 2,000 workers who provide service on board AVE and long-distance trains, whose concession ends today, April 30. The rail operator decided, at the board of directors it held on Tuesday, not to renew this contract. But after criticism from the unions and the service concessionaire, Ferrovial, the public company decided to soften its position.
Finally, after a marathon meeting occurred yesterday, both firms reached a Solomonic decision: extend the concession for another nine months, making the service more flexible due to the coronavirus health emergency but keeping most of the job. As they explain from Renfe, this decision will cause the limitations to the restoration services to be maintained, which have been paralyzed for weeks, but will be promoted in exchange for another, such as the accompaniment of minors. «The service is going to reinvent itself», explain these sources.
As this newspaper has learned, the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, José Luis Ábalos, has intervened to unclog the operation.
This decision, however, must be approved by the board of directors of the public operator, which will meet this Thursday in an extraordinary way. It must also be endorsed by the Ferrovial works council, which will also hold a meeting today.
The agreement reached yesterday between Ferrovial and Renfe also satisfies the unions, which had been very critical of the railway operator for its intention to cut these jobs. In a statement released Monday, they proposed alternatives to favor workers that they were going to be affected by the suppression of the service. These include taking into account the experience of the staff for future calls for employment or reorganize the service so that it can continue in force despite the social distancing. Finally, this has been the chosen option.
Initially, Renfe had decided not to extend this contract due to the restrictions that mobility will have in the coming months. In the best scenario that the Government has drawn to manage the de-escalation, AVE occupancy would be limited to 50% at the end of June. A limitation that makes it impossible to include services such as the cafeteria or the mobile bar on these trains.
The company is suffering a significant drop in revenue, caused by the drop in passengers in recent weeks. As detailed on Monday by the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, José Luis Ábalos, in the Congress of Deputies the department manages a loss forecast for the rail operator that may be around 200 million euros throughout the year.
Renfe awarded Ferrovial the contract to provide services on board all AVE and long-distance trains in 2013 for 379.2 million euros. The concession was to last four years, but in 2017 it was extended. This contract helped Ferrovial strengthen its services division in Spain, a business that was put up for sale a few months ago. It is because of that the infrastructure group has considered essential to keep these jobs. Ferrovial replaced the majority of the workforce when the contract was awarded, but before its completion it planned to cut all jobs.