Spain: Union victory on COVID-19 protection for workers

03 April 2020 11:02

The Spanish government has heeded the demands of the unions to prohibit the dismissal of workers and the termination of temporary employment contracts during the COVID-19 crisis. 

BWI affiliates, the General Union of Workers (UGT) and the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) made the said demands to protect the health and rights of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unions pushed for the measures at a very somber time as  Spain is currently one of the hardest hit countries by COVID-19, registering a very high number of cases per capita and a heavy death toll from the disease. 

The UGT and CCOO welcomed the government’s moratorium on dismissals and terminations as well as other measures like the streamlining of Temporary Employment Regulation Files (ERTES ) and unemployment benefits.

The unions stressed that it is important for the government to strictly regulate temporary lay-off procedures and secure unemployment benefits. Citing ERTES procedures, the unions explained that a company requests authorization from the state to dismiss workers temporarily, suspend employment contracts or reduce working hours temporarily. During this period, workers receive unemployment benefits which are 70 percent of their wages. 

The UGT and CCOO are concerned that 33,000 ERTES claims have already been submitted by different companies in various sectors because of COVID-19. They said that a thorough review of all ERTES claims is necessary to ensure that unjust lay-offs do not happen during the health crisis.  

The unions believe that the measures they’ve secured with the government will help prevent employers from unjustly terminating workers using COVID-19 as an excuse. The UGT and CCOO said that no one should take advantage of the situation and called on both the government and employers to ensure that workers, including domestic and precarious workers, are duly protected.