Germany is clear: ERTE are cheaper than unemployment. That is why the Government of Angela Merkel puts it on a plate to companies so that, before resorting to layoffs, in the face of a drop in activity or temporary billing or in the face of an economic crisis, they preferably resort to job suspensions or reductions working day. This was the case already in the previous crisis and, obviously, this is the way it is now in times of pandemic.
For Spain, ERTEs, even though they have been included in the labor framework for decades, they were practically complete strangers until now, which have assumed a total role and have emerged as the saving tool of employment. Nearly four million workers have taken advantage of a covid-19 file that brings great advantages for both the company and the workers. For the first time the economy falls four times more than employment, when in other crises they go hand in hand.
The consensus that the ERTEs have been a success is complete. This is not only considered by the Executive, but also by employers, unions and economic experts. In view of this, the President of the Government himself expressed his intentions for the future: «The ERTEs have come to stay». But for that to happen it will be necessary to make certain changes in this legal figure that until now had hardly been used, except in large companies, such as the automotive sector. Because if they have been applied en masse in recent months, it is because they have brought advantages for companies (who have not paid wages or much or nothing of their employees’ fees) and for workers (who keep 70% of their salary even after six months and do not consume unemployment).
Once this crisis is over, the Government will work with the social agents to “modernize” this mechanism so that they “better respond” to the need to replace external flexibility measures (layoffs) with internal flexibility measures (reductions in working hours). or temporary job suspensions), as confirmed to this newspaper by Ministry sources. What advantages will be maintained in the new post-pandemic ERTE? The government is prudent, claiming that they contemplate “various scenarios” but specify that they want to establish a permanent model of “shared financing.”
The idea has been enthusiastically received by all parties. The unions believe that no major changes should be made. They do not believe that it is necessary to maintain exemptions in social contributions, at least in general, although they open the door to establishing conditions to quantify whether the company, depending on its need, would be entitled to some type of bonus. “We are not going to exonerate all companies because we will have to see one by one what is the problem they have,” explains the secretary of Union Policy of UGT, Gonzalo Pino, who also maintains that in this line he will have to decide whether to count or not unemployment. What they do require is to recover that the company has to justify the ERTE before a competent administrative authority.
In turn, they consider basic link ERTE to training, just as it happens in Germany. To make it compulsory to qualify for an ERTE that these workers go through a training period, either in relation to their own sector, digitization or new employment niches, with the aim that they not only serve to make adjustments, but also to re-qualify and adapt to new jobs. Financing will be borne by the State. Precisely last Friday the Government published a rule that gives priority to this group in training courses.
Employers are also in this line, aware that the current exemptions may not be maintained in the future due to the high costs they entail. Therefore, its main requirement is the agility to process them, something that has not been in this crisis.
The difficulties in solving and paying ERTE could be solved if the model that many European countries are applying, such as Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, were copied … There, the State makes a transfer directly to the company in ERTE and is She is in charge of paying the payroll of her workers, so there are no delays or errors in payment.
“In Spain we have opted for a system that is not very agile and with an excess of engineering,” says Marcel Jansen, a Fedea researcher and professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, who also questions the design that exonerates workers who rejoin. . But he is even more critical of the demands that the Government has imposed to benefit from an ERTE: prohibition of firing and hiring, working overtime, goodbye to dividends … “Spain has been much more demanding than other countries and in the end this is a straitjacket”, he warns. For this reason, in the future, it calls for streamlining its management with direct transfers to companies, lowering restrictions, facilities for SMEs and training workers in this period. “Make us more European”, he concludes.
But before permanently modernizing the ERTEs, the new game rules will have to be established as of January 31, when the current extension ends. Employers and unions agree: force majeure ERTEs should be exempt from any contribution, as is the case in most European countries. But, at a minimum, current conditions have to be maintained. Employers will try again to eliminate the employment safeguard clause, something in which Jordi García Viñas, director of the KPMG labor area, agrees. “There must be a relaxation of the measures regarding extinction”, he maintains. And he gives an example: “It’s as if in this pandemic they hadn’t let us erase ourselves from the gym.”
In addition, the employers demand more liquidity measures.