Last efforts at the negotiating table to extend the ERTE. The social dialogue table will meet again this Thursday, after yesterday’s session that lasted until ten at night. The head of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, has insisted this morning that her Ministry “is not going to get up” from its chair until an agreement is reached with the unions and the employers, which she considers to be “close.” There are still discrepancies, especially in the differentiated aid to companies in Social Security contributions. This discussion is headed by Minister José Luis Escrivá, who warns social agents of the “budgetary restrictions” that force them to “focus” and “differentiate” public aid. “We want to avoid having a coffee for everyone,” the minister insisted, “because not everyone needs the same level of protection and support.”
The keys to negotiating ERTEs: a more sectoral extension and changes in unemployment protection
The two ministers have given television interviews this Thursday morning, in which they have sent a message of tranquility to workers and companies about the extension of the ERTE (temporary employment regulation files) beyond September 30. The mechanism will not be “dropped”, the extension is guaranteed, but the uncertainty still resides in how, under what conditions the mechanism will be extended on this occasion, the third, in which it seems that the intention of the Government is imposed of differentiating aid so that more resources reach the most affected activities.
Minister José Luis Escrivá has argued that differentiated aid is necessary due to budgetary limitations. “The social agents have to understand that there is a budgetary restriction. We are making an enormous effort. We have already made a considerable effort, we have already spent 23,000 million euros since all European funding for this SURE program began. We have to have Bear in mind that this may still last a few quarters, we have to have sufficient resources, “he defended in an interview in Public Mirror. Employers demand clear figures from Social Security on the cost of ERTE, as they claim to have “serious doubts” that the Executive is being honest with the numbers.
“We are being very generous, but we have to be aware of this budgetary restriction, so from now on we have to be as effective as possible in protecting those economic activities and sectors most affected by the pandemic,” he added. Escrivá has affirmed that he understands the “legitimate interests” of the unions and employers, which represent different sectors, but has insisted that “the Government simply defends the general interest” and considers that it is necessary to “focus” aid from October .
The Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, has spoken for her part in The Ana Rosa Program, where she has insisted on her confidence in a new agreement with social agents. Díaz has also recognized that the main differences focus on differentiated aid to companies and has pointed out that the negotiation table is also analyzing how to review the ERTE mechanism for regrowth, so that it can adapt to the current situation of increase in cases.
To reassure the workers affected by files, Yolanda Díaz explained that the social agents and the Government have already reached an agreement on unemployment protection for employees at ERTE. The “70%” of the amount of unemployment benefit will be maintained, she has assured, so that the cut to 50% of the benefit will be avoided from the sixth month in this situation, approved by the Government of Rajoy. The minister has pointed out that the so-called ‘counter to zero’ by which those affected by ERTE do not consume their right to unemployment benefits in the future “will be extended to 196 days” and will have effects “throughout 2021”.
Conflict in differentiated support
What does the targeting or differentiation in the aid defended by Minister Escrivá translate into? The Government raises greater exemptions in the contributions that companies pay to Social Security for the activities “most affected” by the pandemic, even higher than 80% in the best of cases. This means that some companies would receive more support than they currently have, since exemptions in September for companies in ERTE due to force majeure, they were located in the best of cases at 80% (in the case of new regrowth ERTE) or at 35% of the quota for files that came from months ago.
In return, other companies will see their aid for listing in ERTEs decline or decrease, which must be remembered that it is a mechanism that can continue to be applied if there are causes for it according to ordinary legislation, although without the support of public money that it is heading for the pandemic.
“The design we are doing contemplates all situations, we want to avoid having a café for everyone. What you have to do is differentiate, because not everyone needs the same level of protection and support. That is the essence of discrepancy. We are willing to support all those activities or companies that are affected in one way or another, but the level of support cannot be the same, because the level of impact is different, “the minister argued.
Unions and employers focus their fears and their opposition to the Government’s line that this differentiation leaves out companies that are affected by the pandemic in a less obvious or visible way. Both José Luis Escrivá and Yolanda Díaz have opened this Thursday to make the extension tool “very flexible”, to avoid this situation. Flexibility in ERTEs is complex and poses a very important challenge for the processing of files by the SEPE, which already has a huge amount of work and overflowed during the toughest moments of the pandemic due to the flood of ERTE requests.
The three parts of the social dialogue table meet this Thursday again from 11 in the morning with the intention of reaching a point in common with the demands of all. They already have a few days to reach an agreement and prevent the Executive from approving a solo extension: the current ERTE system is in effect until next Wednesday, September 30.