The labor reform agreed by the Government, unions and employers, and which went ahead in Congress thanks to the wrong vote of a deputy from the Popular Party, was forged to fight against temporality and put an end to the excessive rotation of the Spanish labor market. In the five months that it has been in force ―it was approved on December 31, but it was not fully deployed until April 1―, the number of indefinite workers has skyrocketed to two and a half million, already exceeding the figures for all of 2021 ( 2,113,341). Between January and May, one out of every three contracts was of this type, and the trend continues to rise. This boom has been produced, in part, by the push of discontinuous fixed, which represent a third of the total indefinite (683,000). However, its intermittent work nature – it is a model designed to cover seasonal positions – has generated political discrepancies this week.
The leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, considered, after learning that in May unemployment fell below three million for the first time since 2008 and affiliations returned to be above 20 million, that they were data ” made-up”, since, according to him, “a discontinuous fixed that is not working does not appear unemployed”, which adulterates the accounting.
Sources from the Ministry of Labor point out that the discontinuous fixed are computed in the same way and “without any change” since 1985, when an order was signed establishing statistical criteria for the measurement of registered unemployment that were adapted to the requirements of the European Economic Community. “This criterion has been respected by all successive governments, regardless of political party,” they say. “Therefore, according to this rule, they are people who have a current employment relationship and do not appear as unemployed since its creation,” they add.
The statistical reality is that, in accordance with the 1985 norm, a discontinuous permanent will not count as unemployed whether they are working or not, neither for the Active Population Survey (EPA) when they have a contract with a company, nor in the registered unemployment statistics, not being registered as a job seeker in the State Public Employment Service (SEPE). However, the “make-up” that Feijóo refers to is based on considering all the discontinuous permanent workers as workers who are waiting to be called and, therefore, who do not work, something that does not happen uniformly within the group.
The reinforcement of the figure of the discontinuous fixed was a fundamental part of the negotiation of the labor reform. Singularly, because it is through it that the intention is to channel all that seasonal or unforeseen workforce that has been covered with temporary contracts and has brought the temporary rate to values much higher than those of the European Union (today they are in 24.21% and 13.5%, respectively). It was also expected that its impact would be greater in sectors such as agriculture, tourism or construction, channeling all the abusive temporality that had been concentrated in them towards this figure.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
“The discontinuous fixed indefinite contract is a contract of a stable nature, with full rights, which accrues seniority, vacations and, of course, has the same protection against dismissal as an ordinary indefinite contract,” recalled the vice president and minister of Work, Yolanda Diaz.
In the final text of the labor reform, it was determined that the permanent discontinuous will be the labor formula used for “performing work of a seasonal nature or linked to seasonal productive activities, or for the development of those that do not have such a nature, but that , being of intermittent benefit, have periods of execution certain, determined or indeterminate”. “It is a firm commitment to the disappearance of one of the contracts causing the precariousness”, explained the vice president.
The affirmation of the leader of the PP has deeply annoyed the Government. “Mr. Feijóo is a lawyer, and he has a serious problem. He has governed an autonomous community (Galicia) for 13 years, and he does not understand what a discontinuous fixed is, ”Díaz replied. The person in charge of Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, went in the same direction: “You have to ask yourself if it is ignorance or bad intention. And either of the two answers is not good.
Both Escrivá himself, as well as sources from his ministry, were quick to refute Feijóo’s accusations, recalling that a discontinuous landline computes as an affiliate in the statistics in the periods in which it is registered and active, while when it ceases to be their situation varies depending on whether they are unemployed (because the company has decided to terminate the contract) or inactive (a technical distinction that depends on whether or not they are looking for work at the time of the calculation). “No change has been made in the treatment of statistics,” stress sources from the Ministry of Social Security.
The (EPA) that the National Institute of Statistics (INE) prepares on a quarterly basis, and the registered unemployment and affiliations that compute the Ministries of Labor and Social Security on a monthly basis, differ in their methodology ―the EPA is guided by the criteria of the International Labor Organization (ILO)―, and make a different assessment regarding the figure of the unemployed. For the INE, an unemployed person is a person “16 years of age or older who during the reference week [en la que se lleva a cabo la encuesta] have been out of work, available for work, and actively seeking employment”; while for Work they are all those people in search of employment who are registered in a SEPE office. Those workers registered with Social Security are listed as affiliates.
Probably, of all Feijóo’s considerations, the one that has most irritated the Government is the concept of “indefinite precariousness” that Feijóo used to categorize those workers with this type of contract. The reality is that, although the discontinuous permanent workers depend on being called or not to work, which shows a lack of continuity in employment, their protection is greater than that of a temporary one, since they have a series of rights that resemble the classic figure of the indefinite, such as the fact that the company is obliged to call the same worker every year during periods of activity.
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