This is how the Siro group was saved: a minibus, machine sandwiches and a lot of telephone
Siro factory in the Palencia town of Venta de Baños.  JUAN MERCE
Siro factory in the Palencia town of Venta de Baños. JUAN MERCE

Thursday June 9 at night. There are no sandwiches left in the looted vending machines. vending of a huge building on Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. The tension governs in the Ministry of Industry, where its head, Reyes Maroto, negotiates with the representatives of the Siro Group who arrived by minibus and the investor on whom it depends that this biscuit maker does not close. Maroto mediates between the company’s offers, which arrive by phone, and the union demands, on whom the future of 1,700 employees weighs. The breaks to debate are digested with coffee until, around half past three in the morning, the long-awaited “principle of agreement” appears. At last, light after weeks of fear of a deadly outcome for Castilla y León, where Siro will keep its four factories.

The plácet allowed those sent to the ministerial headquarters to return at night to Venta de Baños and Aguilar de Campóo (Palencia) and Toro (Zamora), where the facilities at risk are located. On Friday, between bags under their eyes and smiles of satisfaction, they explained to the committees that survival consisted of a competitive plan with advantageous conditions. The American Davidson Kempner and the Turkish Afendis demanded that plan to maintain Cerealto Siro and neither close the plants nor transfer the 200 people from Venta de Baños, as they initially thought. This factory has marked the differences between the parties because the investors accused it of lower productivity and high absenteeism, something denied by the majority union UGT.

These measures would be voted on Saturday and, hours before, the investors pressed. “This revised offer represents an additional investment of more than 12 million euros”, and they warned that “they have exhausted their capacity to make additional improvements”. Its “best and last offer”, of 100 million euros in five years, represented an “opportunity for a sustainable industrial and labor future” that was supported by the assemblies. There was also no alternative. Reyes Maroto went to the three affected towns to detail the keys to the pact, attend to the staff and verify that of the 872 voters, only 93 refused. Hundreds of families sighed and the relief spread throughout Castilla y León, a community with little good news about the industry.

This Monday the axes of the agreement have been specified, which Maroto has presented as “an example of commitment to opportunities and the future of rural Spain” that allows “recovering purchasing power of wages” and increasing the economic capacity of employees. Likewise, he has assessed that the Venta de Baños factory, threatened with closure, will continue for two more years and that “the new property, in collaboration with the Government, will form a working group to look for investors who will give the plant a future.” The president of Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP), and the mayors of the municipalities involved (PSOE and PP) have attended the ministry, who have expressed to EL PAÍS their satisfaction with the result in the face of a bankruptcy that would be “disastrous” .

Nerves and accusations

The events of the last few months have led to a frenetic last week of nerves and accusations. The person in charge of Industry of UGT Castilla y León, Sandra Vega, presents a “hard start to the conflict”, when months ago Siro’s advisory team – “the most aggressive I have seen” – exposed unfeasible conditions and, when the committees sought alternatives, broke off negotiations. The last few weeks, with production stoppages so as not to increase the debt and non-payments to the workers, transferred the issue to the institutions. The Board, through the Minister of Economy, Carlos Fernández Carriedo, offered the support of the regional foundation Anclaje, an idea rejected “because there was no time.”

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Last Wednesday the mayors involved and the presidents of the committees were summoned to the Cortes (Valladolid) and Thursday was summoned to debate in the ministry, but early Thursday the call from the ministry came, recalls Vega: the investor had sent a proposal . The Government chartered a minibus to Madrid and the entourage hesitated, since the councilor of Aguilar, María José Ortega (PP), assured that the regional president would attend the meeting together with Carriedo and the president of Siro, Juan Manuel González Serna. Vega censors the fact that neither of them was physically there and that when Serna appeared, he admitted that the offer came from Industry. “We went to Madrid buzzing,” highlights the trade unionist.

Carriedo maintains that the role of the Board has allowed that, despite years of turbulence, “Siro has come this far” and praises the “interlocution” with the company and the workers in search of remedies. The counselor affirms that on Thursday the investment group also told them about an offer “but that it was going to be transmitted to the ministry” and that “the how is less important than the fact of saving jobs”, something for which “they have all contributed the administrations”. The process concludes this Monday with the announcement of the conditions signed after weeks of anxiety and maintains 1,700 jobs, whose absence, and its consequent economic impact, would cause the fall of a biscuit maker to push several regions into the abyss.

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