August is not being the expected one by many freelancers, who trusted that the summer would help mitigate the effects of the economic downturn in the hardest moments of the coronavirus pandemic. The month has been marked by outbreaks of the virus in different parts of Spain and by restrictive health measures to deal with it, inside and outside the country, which have limited economic activity, especially in sectors such as nightlife, hotels and restaurants. tourism. As for The ERTE had a formula in case of regrowth that protects wage earners, the three most representative self-employed groups (ATA, UOTA and UATAE) demand that the Government urgently recover the extraordinary benefit for cessation of activity, the so-called extraordinary ‘strike’ of the self-employed, created by the Executive of coalition at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Social Security agrees the aid for the self-employed and the savings in the payment of the quota until September
The famous Moloko Sound Club in the Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña had an opening date for September 2 and its owner, Sabi Palacios, had to cancel it due to the new restrictions. “We have said that we will reopen, but we do not know when. Annoyed is little for how we are,” he explains to elDiario.es. With his two workers at ERTE since March, Palacios points out that there are already many months of expenses on his back, renting the premises, with contributions for his employees that have increased and taxes, which are very difficult to sustain despite collecting benefits created for freelancers and have requested an ICO credit.
“It does not allow me to cover the expenses and the ICO loan that I requested at the beginning of the pandemic reaches me until September. This will not be able to do with the business because I am very stubborn and because of the love I have invested in this, 23 years of my life invested in a business that was doing well. It is my passion and I am going to fight for it, but I am going to have to go into debt a lot, direct aid would be necessary, “claims the head of the club.
The extraordinary ‘unemployment’, of a minimum of 661 euros, and the savings of the self-employed from the payment of the Social Security contribution, was extinguished on June 30, although it could be requested with retroactive effect until a month later. The aid reached almost a million and a half freelancers, practically half of the total number of self-employed workers in Spain. The Government deployed this unprecedented tool in March, which facilitated the collection of aid for cessation of activity due to business paralysis due to COVID-19 or those situations in which turnover had been greatly reduced, by 75%.
With the end of the state of alarm on June 21, the Minister of Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, reached an agreement with the three self-employed groups on aid for self-employed workers from July until September, since in the new normality the collection of the extraordinary benefit was not considered. The new aid was specified in three axes: the ordinary benefit for cessation of activity (with the possibility of self-employed persons with limited income and whose billing would have been greatly reduced), savings in the Social Security fee for former beneficiaries of the extraordinary benefit and a new aid for the so-called “seasonal freelancers”, who had been left out of the previous benefit.
Criticism of aid since July
The data on beneficiaries of these aids have been greatly reduced compared to workers who had been receiving extraordinary unemployment. The ordinary benefit has reached about 115,000 workers, while about 1,200 have benefited from the seasonal self-employed benefit, according to Social Security data from the end of July. Thus, in a month it went from more than 1.4 million workers receiving a benefit to a total of about 140,500, counting those who still received extraordinary unemployment retroactively.
The figures have been interpreted differently by the Executive and the self-employed groups. Minister Escrivá acknowledged in his last press conference that the number of beneficiaries was much lower than expected by Social Security and attributed it to a sign of the reactivation of employment among self-employed workers. It should be remembered that the loss of self-employed jobs has not been as marked as among salaried employees, with some 16,000 fewer self-employed affiliates in July this year compared to last year (-0.5%) and a reduction of about 670,000 employees in the general regime (-4-4%). The representatives of the self-employed, on the other hand, translate the figures into the “failure” and “insufficiency” of the coverage of these aids, which they believe have fallen short to protect the group even in the best scenarios without outbreaks.
ATA, an organization that is part of the CEOE employers’ association, is the most critical of government aid since July, which it calls “absolute failure”, in the words of its president, Lorenzo Amor. UATAE and UPTA agree that the ordinary benefit and that of seasonal freelancers have turned out to be insufficient. “In the ordinary benefit, the main problems that we detect come because it leaves out the self-employed who are charging the flat rate, who are starting their activity, and also those who do not add the minimum of 12 months of contribution”, explains María José Landaburu , Secretary General of UATAE. The president of ATA also criticizes that moonlighting people, with more than one job, are excluded from being able to collect this ordinary strike.
Regarding the seasonal self-employed, who did not have access to the benefit of ‘unemployment’ due to cessation of activity because they were not registered at the outbreak of the pandemic, all organizations criticize very “strict” requirements to access specific help for these workers and point out that the 1,200 beneficiaries make up a very small part of the group, which in UATAE estimate at some 20,000 people.
Among them, the self-employed workers who work only in the tourist season or in summer with the patron saint festivities that are usually celebrated throughout the country and that this year have not had activity. UPTA calculates for its part that “only 25% of seasonal freelancers have been able to request this benefit, which is vital for these families.”
Exceptional help for new emergencies
The representatives of the self-employed already demanded the Government at the end of July to review the aid deployed for the scenario of new normality, a request that they maintain with more urgency and to which they now add the need to re-grant the extraordinary unemployment benefit. ATA, UPTA and UATAE emphasize that the outbreaks in August, which have shot up and arrived earlier than expected, have meant that Health and the Autonomous Communities agreed on health measures to contain the virus that affect different economic activities, but have not been adopted supports to counteract these effects on the self-employed. “Health comes first, that always, but the sanitary measures that limit activities have to go hand in hand with other economic ones so as not to leave anyone behind,” Landaburu values.
The restrictions for the moment have affected specific localities in which there has been a high incidence of contacts, as well as the nightlife and hospitality sectors throughout the country, with different regional provisions that decree the closure of discos and other nightlife venues and the limitation of hours in the hotel and restaurant industry until 1 in the morning.
In UPTA they have especially highlighted the consequences that these measures, as well as the necessary safety distances, imply for the “small hotel business”, condemned to “total disappearance” if support measures are not adopted. “There are as many sectors and workers affected as the restrictive measures that are ordered. For example, in nightlife there are many self-employed musicians, technical, sound, tent assembly personnel, taxi drivers at night who cannot work or have no business for these orders “, adds the head of UATAE.
The three organizations ask the Ministry of Social Security and the Ministry of Labor to meet urgently to update the aid for the self-employed, a meeting that for the moment is not on the agenda, as is the one scheduled for September 4 with the unions CCOO and UGT and CEOE and Cepyme employers to address the extension of the ERTE.
“There is a constituted commission that is pending to meet again”, they limit themselves to answering sources of the Social Security. “A very tough September awaits us, we have to tackle this as soon as possible. Many self-employed people held out without canceling in July because they were exempt from 100% of Social Security contributions, but in August they paid 50% and in September they have they have to pay 25% and they may not hold it “, warns Lorenzo Amor.