Saturday, May 21

“In Spain, we must end the culture of precariousness and enter that of stability, and that is also possible in the service sector and tourism”

Pepe Álvarez (Asturias, 1956) was reelected a little more than a month ago, Secretary General of the UGT at the national level by a large majority, with more than 85% of the votes. Thus, this veteran trade unionist, closely linked to Catalonia from a young age, faces another four years at the helm of this organization with clear ideas to defend the rights of the working class and achieve maximum confidence: “Being more on the street, with the workers “.

“If the pandemic has taught us something, it is that when we are with the people, they appreciate it,” he says in an interview with during his visit to Cantabria this week, in which he has reviewed current political, economic and social issues in a delicate context due to the health crisis. And it is that despite the fact that COVID-19, thanks to the vaccination campaign, is subsiding, its economic consequences remain obvious and threaten to last if the appropriate measures are not put in place to remedy it. However, according to the union leader, the situation “was aggravated by the pandemic, but it is not a question that comes only and exclusively because of it.”

In this sense, Álvarez advocates “expanding the Minimum Vital Income, to end the queues of hunger and with people who do not have a roof to sleep”, and “work in the short term so that recovery is the maximum possible in these months Of summer”. For this, the general secretary of the UGT believes that the ERTEs have played a fundamental role. “It has been an instrument that has allowed the balance not to be so extremely negative,” he assures, detailing that “they have saved three million jobs in Spain at the bottom, and that is what will allow us to recover economic is not so disastrous. ”

In line, he argues that the ERTE should be kept “indefinitely for the reconversion processes of companies and for problems that may arise in some parts of our country.” “We think that they should be extended until the end of the year because after September there will be some sectors still pending and that there is no reason not to do so,” he says. “They are going to be maintained and I am convinced that we are going to be able to convince the Government to keep them,” he says.

Thus, a summer season begins in which temporary jobs grow as a result of tourism. Despite this, the UGT leader rejects that these jobs have to be linked to precariousness, since they can be stable part-time contracts, the so-called fixed-discontinuous. “In Spain, we must end the culture of precariousness and enter into the culture of stability, and that can be done with the service sector and also with the tourism sector,” highlights Álvarez.

In the case of Cantabria, as explained by Mariano Carmona, general secretary of this union in the community, present during the interview, “the unemployment data will improve because we come from a very bad situation and because it is a region in which the sector services is very seasonal. ” “It is not a long-term solution, it is not a solution that we rejoice in, especially if it is a short-term solution,” he clarifies, advocating the application of policies that promote the “rebalancing of the three productive sectors so that Cantabria is truly a stable community, less subject to seasonal fluctuations. ”

Youth unemployment, pensions and minimum wage

Pepe Álvarez reviews three of the hottest political and social issues: the high rate of youth unemployment, the pension reform and the rise in the Minimum Interprofessional Salary (SMI). First, it highlights that youth unemployment is “absolutely unaffordable and indecent.” And to reverse this situation he proposes two things: Vocational Training and reconstruction funds.

“Vocational Training has to become a fundamental educational instrument in our country because young people who have it are less unemployed,” he argues. “Therefore, we must work there, not only thinking about the future of the new young people, those who are leaving school today, but also and incorporating young people who have not found a job to training processes that help them to be able to get to work in better conditions, “he says. And on the European funds, the UGT leader trusts that they are an instrument to “create quality employment in the industrial sector in a very special way and that in some way also allow young people to enter work with stability”.

Álvarez shares the reflection that there are young people who feel resignation, fatigue and who see themselves as a ‘lost generation’. “It is normal for them to have that feeling, but we cannot afford to lose any generation, it would be a disaster,” he stresses. “The Government has launched a youth employment plan with a very important endowment of 5,000 million euros that should make it possible to recover an important part,” he says.

Regarding the minimum wage, its position is clear and unmovable: “The voices against its rise are those who do not want to pay it, which are the businessmen or some State institutions that act on the side, as is the case of the Bank of Spain.” And it is that, according to the general secretary of UGT, “objectively everything indicates that when the SMI is raised the country grows and jobs are created, so doing so is necessary and healthy for the Spanish economy.”

The explanation is simple: when workers receive the increase they will immediately invest it, so they will consume and other jobs will be created from that consumption. “We want that in the year 2023, as the Government promised, the minimum wage in Spain is 60 percent of the average wage, which will certainly be between 1,100 and 1,200 euros,” says Álvarez. “It should reach 1,000 euros because that is in line with the agreements we have reached with the employers, with whom we have signed that this year there should be no agreement below that figure,” he argues.

Another of the trade unions’ workhorses is also framed in this context: repealing the PP labor reform. “I doubt very much that we can reach an agreement with the employers on this matter,” admits Álvarez, who points to July as the date for that agreement or disagreement. “We are going to be very demanding because we want to end job insecurity and that means that when a company hires an illegal worker it has to know that it will cost much more expensive than hiring legally,” he says. “We want to restore the principle that the dismissal is carried out for objective reasons, not because the employer wants it,” he says.

On the other hand, this trade unionist also recognizes the importance of the agreement on the pension reform that is expected to be signed next week and that will serve to repeal that of the 2013 Popular Party. The sustainability factor will be eliminated, they will be automatically updated and there will be no penalties in early retirement of the unemployed.

In this context, he assures that “the assessment we make of social dialogue is positive, and if it weren’t because during this pandemic there are many people who have stayed on the road, I would say very positive.” “Social dialogue is a good basis for tackling the problems of a country,” he says.

“More confidence”

The re-elected leader of the UGT faces another mandate with the aim of consolidating the presence in the street and combating inequality of women and the LGTBI community, as well as environmental problems through work groups that provide alternatives. “And then the union has, without any doubt, to continue union action, and union action means ending temporary employment, facing the change in the production model, producing quality and stable jobs, and definitively establishing the system. of pensions “, exposes.

He acknowledges that he currently perceives “much more trust” from people, but that “you have to earn it day by day.” “We have taken a very important leap from the union in gaining trust and credibility,” he concludes.