Government to support jobs in footwear and leather sector

The Spanish government has agreed on a package of measures to support the footwear and leather goods sector as it faces increased competition in the global market. The plan aims to maintain 40,000 jobs in Spain and to use active employment policies to prevent workers from leaving the labour market. Particular attention is paid to older workers in terms of the subsidies available. The support package has been negotiated and agreed with the social partners.

Competitive market environment

At the proposal of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Jesús Caldera, on 5 October 2007 the Council of Ministers approved a package of measures to support the footwear and leather goods manufacturing and components sector in Spain. The main aim of these measures is to maintain the employment of about 40,000 workers, more than 28,000 of whom work in the subsector of footwear, while about 5,500 work in tanning and about 6,500 in leather goods. To this end, the parties involved have agreed to work together to address the difficult situation that the sector is experiencing due to the liberalisation of the market and competition from emerging countries, particularly from those in Asia.

Half of the workers of the footwear and leather goods manufacturing and components sector are concentrated in the eastern Valencian Community, at 48%, while the rest are divided between the northeastern Community of Catalonia (28%), the central Community of Castilla-la Mancha (10%), the northern Community of La Rioja (8%) and the southern Community of Andalusia (6%).

Details of support measures

The support measures aim to make these manufacturing subsectors more competitive and to secure the existence of as many companies and jobs as possible in the country. They also seek to alleviate any negative consequences that may arise for the workers and the regions as a result of globalisation of the economy, market liberalisation and increased competition from emerging countries with far lower labour costs.

More specifically, a set of active employment policies has been drawn up with the objectives of increasing the professional skills of workers in order to improve their employability, supporting the return to employment of those who are made redundant and providing special attention to older workers who are at greater risk of being excluded from the labour market. In drafting the measures, the small size of the companies in the footwear and leather goods sector and the high rate of temporary employment were taken into account.

The main provisions are as follows:

  • continuing training for the workers;
  • subsidies during the jobseeking process and to facilitate geographic mobility for workers who have to move to take up a stable job or one lasting at least six months. The subsidies are meant to cover travelling expenses, childcare and accommodation;
  • a 50% allowance of social security contributions for maintaining employment through permanent recruitment of workers aged 55 years and over. When the workers reach the age of 60 years, they will continue to benefit from this measure;
  • subsidies to facilitate the integration in employment of workers aged 52 years or over through wage supplements;
  • special subsidies for workers aged 55 years and over who fail to find a new job.

Applying these measures will entail an approximate cost of €49 million. Of this amount, €26 million will be financed through the current programmes to foster employment. The remaining €23 million will be funded through the €140 million specific budget provision to facilitate the adjustment of sectors affected by structural changes in world trade, which was set up by the Spanish government in June 2006.

Agreement of social partners

The active employment policies and social and labour market initiatives that have been approved are based on a preliminary agreement reached in the framework of the social dialogue in July 2007 between representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MTAS), the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade (Ministerio de Industria Turismo y Comercio, MITYC), and the main trade unions and employer organisations of the sector. These provisions were therefore agreed with the social partners, which made it possible to adapt them to industry needs and to the characteristics of the companies and workers in the sector.

The measures represent an innovative plan to support the footwear and leather goods sector, and were signed by Minister Caldera, the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Joan Clos, and the sectoral social partners. The employer organisations concerned include: the Federation of Spanish Footwear Industries (Federación de Industrias del Calzado Español, FICE), the Spanish Association of Footwear Components Manufacturers (Asociación Española de Empresas de Componentes para el Calzado, AEC), the Spanish Tanners Confederation (Confederación Española de Curtidores, CEC-FECUR), the Andalusian Association of Leather Goods Companies (Asociación de Empresas Andaluzas de la Piel, EMPIEL), the Association of Manufacturers of Leather Goods, Travel Items and Related Industries of the Central Zone (Asociación Empresarial de Fabricantes de Marroquinería, Artículos de Viaje e Industrias Conexas de la Zona Centro, ASEMAVI) and the Manufacturers’ Guild of Sabadell (Gremi de Fabricantes de Sabadell, GREMI). Employees were represented by the two sectoral trade union federations: the Federation of Allied Industries affiliated to the General Workers’ Confederation (Federación de Industrias Afines-Unión General de Trabajadores, FIA-UGT) and the Federation of Textiles, Leather, Chemical and Allied Industries affiliated to the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Federación de Industrias de Textil, Piel, Químicas y Afines-Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, FITEQA-CCOO). The support package agreed will remain in force until 31 December 2009.

Commentary

These social and labour market measures apply active employment policies to prevent workers from leaving the labour market and claiming unemployment benefit. The provisions foster employment through innovative actions that contrast with traditional restructuring processes. The measures form part of the government strategy to support the sectors most affected by global competition and restructuring. Recently, a plan was adopted to support the textiles and clothing sector, which is also facing increased challenges in world trade (ES0706039I).

Emma Cerviño, CIREM

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