The government has approved measures today in an attempt to pull Alcoa back on its threat of closing its plants in A Coruña and Avilés, which employ almost 700 workers. The multinational has repeatedly denounced in recent years the high energy prices suffered by its Spanish factories, complaints that the Minister of Industry, Reyes Maroto, has assumed with, above all, a proposal that has been approved today by the Council of Ministers: the creation of a Statute of Electrointensive Consumers, allowing a reduction in costs and reducing the volatility of electricity prices in large industries. Maroto has warned that the measures want to "avoid the closure of companies," although he has not made direct references to Alcoa.
The approved measure opens a six-month process to finish defining the elements that will cover the statute as a whole, but the basic idea is to recognize the needs of those intensive consumers of electricity and who consume energy in hours of low electricity demand, as it would be the case of the metallurgical industry. The Government assumes that for these companies the price of electricity is one of the main factors of production, so giving them stability is one of the few formulas to provide competitiveness and allow them to maintain market share and so they want to continue in Spain.
The autonomous governments of Galicia and Asturias had demanded a plan of shock with the central government to try to change the opinion of Alcoa's management, which has repeatedly threatened its departure from Spain.
Maroto explained after the meeting of the Council of Ministers that in the measures of the Government there will be benefits for the companies, but also obligations. Regarding the latter, the minister has warned that carbon dioxide compensation subsidies, which will occur this December, will now be conditioned. Companies that benefit must ensure that their plants remain active for at least the next three years and that if they execute employment regulations, the templates are not reduced by more than 15%.
Another of the measures approved today is an extension of the useful life of cogeneration plants that use renewable fuels or natural gas that have exceeded their useful life this year. That extension will be two years. Likewise, the door opens to the creation of closed electrical distribution networks, a measure aimed especially at the petrochemical polygons of Tarragona and Huelva.
The Government has today approved an extension of the relief contract, which will last four years, but only for jobs linked to the manufacturing industry, as EL PAÍS advanced. The modification, which facilitates the rejuvenation of staff with the entry of younger workers in exchange for partial retirement, involves retracting the conditions to the regulations prior to 2012, modified with the changes introduced in the Pensions law. According to the Government's calculations, this update of the conditions will allow "securing" 70,000 jobs in the next five years.
The plan was an express request of the automotive sector, which considers it essential to maintain competitive conditions with foreign plants and to rejuvenate staff and enhance training in their staff. Despite the internal differences in employers and unions, the Executive has admitted introducing modifications only for the industrial sector and only for those jobs directly related to jobs in production lines.