Oxfam Intermón believes that “something is changing” among the Ibex 35 companies after the “authentic mobilization” of the selective companies in the face of the coronavirus crisis, with actions that “could give clues about a refocusing of business action” that the NGO asks that they not remain “in mere mirages that vanish as soon as the situation clears up.”
In its annual report on selective companies, published this Tuesday, Oxfam Intermón points out that before the arrival of COVID-19, the firms of the stock index that groups the Spanish corporate elite “followed inertia that led to an increase in the gap between inequality “, but” the appearance of the coronavirus could represent a turning point in the behavior of companies. ”
“Although some companies of the Ibex 35 still continue to prioritize the remuneration to shareholders whoever falls, during the pandemic many others have made efforts to cushion the impact of the economic downturn on the different actors involved in their activity: workers, customers, suppliers and social environment “.
Thus, “many of them have turned to trying to pitch in to attend to the health emergency with actions that have consisted both in supporting medical care and producing and distributing medical supplies, as well as in guaranteeing the supply of essential goods and services. “. Also “many of them have made an effort to try to maintain employment and to take care of their most vulnerable clients and suppliers.”
According to the NGO, these actions “reflect a commitment on the part of companies to respond to existing needs and challenges. This is a rather unprecedented case, which contrasts sharply with their unsupportive response to the 2008 economic crisis.”
However, Oxfam highlights that after the outbreak of the health and economic crisis some old inertias persist. “Faced with the concern shown by these companies in trying to cushion the effects on income and the employment situation of their workers, suppliers or clients, contrasts the lack of it by the companies that have distributed dividends with an ERTE underway.” He cites the case of ACS, which distributed 630 million euros in dividends in July, while maintaining an ERTE that affected 192 people, or Ferrovial, which distributed 741 million euros to its shareholders in June, “with an ERTE in force that affected 2,000 company people “.
The regulations on ERTE only prohibit the distribution of dividends charged to the year 2020, but according to the NGO “that a company distributes millions of euros to its shareholders while some of its workers are seeing their income cut and they face a panorama of job uncertainty, it is incoherent and unsupportive “.
According to Oxfam, 20 of the 35 most important companies on the Spanish stock market distributed 9,558 million in dividends charged to the results of 2019 in the second and third quarters of 2020, “despite the decline in their profits and the risk of undercapitalizing their corporations, “although eight” opted instead for caution and postponed profit sharing. ” Oxfam emphasizes that “some companies, such as Endesa, Ferrovial and Telefónica, distributed more money than they had earned during the year. Repsol deserves a special mention, which distributed 1,434 million among its shareholders despite having suffered billionaire losses last year”.
In the report, Oxfam Intermón once again analyzes five indicators for 2019: wage gap, gender gap, presence in tax havens, payment of taxes and distribution of dividends. According to the behavior analysis prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the companies that seem to contribute the most to increasing inequality are Acciona, Iberdrola, Mapfre and Repsol. In contrast, “Bankia, Siemens Gamesa and Aena present the best results.”
By sectors, energy companies are those that present results that point more to increasing inequality, especially in the distribution of benefits, to which all of them allocate more than 70%. At the other extreme are consumer services companies: only one of the four Ibex companies in this sector has distributed dividends in 2019.
According to the report, the presence of Ibex firms in tax havens “registers a decrease, although insufficient, from 805 subsidiaries to 740”, triple the number a decade ago, although it must be borne in mind that Oxfam Intermón considers tax havens to US territory of Delaware and the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg, which are member states of the EU.
On the fiscal side, Oxfam Intermón notes other improvements, such as the increase in the number of companies (13 out of 35) that comply with the obligation to report the taxes they pay in each country. Of course, only five come to pay an “adequate” proportion with respect to the average legal rate in those countries.
Regarding the remuneration of its workforce, the report reflects an average increase of 6.3% in 2019. However, the salary gap with respect to senior executives remains practically the same: the latter “have earned 121 times more than the average salary of his employees, compared to 123 the previous year “.
The company with the highest difference between the maximum and average salary is ACS, whose chief executive earns 531 times the average salary, followed by Acciona (275 times), and Inditex (272 times). The companies with a significant presence of the State in their shareholders, Aena, Bankia and Red Eléctrica (in that order), are those that register the smallest differences.
The gender pay gap remains at 15%, the same as last year. The average male salary in the group of companies was 38,134 euros per year, while that of women was 32,414 euros. Regarding management positions, although they constitute practically half (46.5%) of the workforce, they are only 25.9% of the people who occupy the highest categories.
The NGO warns that the coronavirus crisis “opens a very worrying panorama of uncertainty” and “is throwing away the timid reduction in inequality” achieved in recent years in Spain, given that it is estimated that this year 10% The poorest of the population could lose, in proportional terms, more than eight times the income lost by the 10% with the highest income, which could cause the number of poor people to reach 10.9 million people, 1.1 million more. Meanwhile, between March and June “the Spanish billionaires on the Forbes list have seen the value of their wealth increase by just over 19.2 billion,” the report recalls.
To the human drama of the loss of life must be added “the consequences of the economic stoppage that leads to poverty to hundreds of thousands of people in Spain and an increase in inequality”, with thousands of SMEs trying to survive while larger companies size “also accuse the blow, although from a better position.” For this reason, “that the recovery from this new economic crisis does not contribute to widening the inequality gap depends in part on the type of adjustments that large companies apply to overcome the pothole.”