When in a group like the unemployed in a situation of ERTE you find one of those errors capable of ruining a family, the situation is at least singular and worthy of attention. However, when that case is the norm and the exception is ERTE well managed, a situation of social alarm occurs.
Or maybe not.
Because the figures have not been released. As of today, countless beneficiaries have not received it, have received ridiculous amounts or have exhausted unemployment that should never have been used in this crisis. And as of today, in Catalonia and Madrid, the SEPE offices have not yet opened. In three provinces of Catalonia it has not even been made public on what date they'll open.
This situation of abandonment is not the same in all of Spain, nor the same in all groups, but what has become universal are the two main factors that have motivated this disaster. The enormous number of errors in the management of ERTEs and their opaque management protocols.
First of all, I want to make one thing clear, and that' that I'm not going to blame the SEPE employees for something that in principle would seem to be a major incompetence on their part. It would be very easy to make them the target of our criticism as the most thoughtless affected could do. That'is absolutely wrong.
We're talking about a workforce whose average age is close to that of retirement, management processes that were few and largely automated before the health crisis, and a personnel structure that was already at the limit and needed to hire new personnel. Then comes the crisis and those who are in charge say that the current benefit system is no longer applicable, that everyone is going to receive a new benefit, whether they have paid days or not, based on new withholding certificates that must be provided by companies, without discounting days, without applying the reductions of the previous contribution base, without the presence of those affected, teleworking each employee from their homes, with the material they have, in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
But this is not the drama nor are these the excuses. Things get more complicated when the small staff realizes that the automation of the efforts is over. If someone programmed an automation to grant all ERTEs automatically, the Spanish government would run out of funds within a few days. There's simply no liquidity to do so, considering the more than evident possibility that many companies sign up for the ERTEs and repeat the frauds of the "case of the ERES" making it the "case of the ERTES". Conclusion: All those files have to be processed manually, one by one.
And if that were not enough, there are instructions from above that have nothing to do with what Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias have announced by hype on television. For example, if an employee doesn't have enough days paid, the brand new benefit will be paid, but what if they do? Well, in a huge number of cases they are being paid an old, miserable and stunted unemployment benefit, discounting their paid days until they are exhausted. Because obviously SEPE can't aprove ERTEs so "cheerfully". The money is finite and it's not yet known what aid will come from Europe, or when.
But I'm going to illustrate this situation from the point of view of a real person, whose name I'm not going to give and whom I'll simply call Raquel.
The case of Raquel
Raquel worked full time as a monitor of several activities in a concerted school. She went to ERTE, and hoped to collect the benefit according to the certificates provided by her company and on a 70% basis, as the President had promised on television. She would have to tighten her belt, but she knew there was no other option because lives were at stake.
But a month passed, and she didn't get paid. And the next month she received a paltry amount of € 70. Stunned, she tried to communicate with SEPE. No one picked up the phone. She tried again and again, but it was useless. The offices were closed and there was no one to talk to.
Days later, a letter from SEPE came to her, and she discovered that they were not paying her the ERTE, but her former unemployment benefit, based on a company certificate from almost five years ago, when she was a dining room monitor and only worked part-time. In addition, since that unemployment was charged intermittently in the summers, the retention base was no longer 70% but 50%. And also the days were being subtracted. Now he only had 50 days left. In less than two months that unemployment would be exhausted.
Stunned, she commented on the event in her WhatsApp group. Her companions informed her that the same thing had happened to all of them. Except two who did not have previous benefits, all of them had resumed unemployment instead of giving them the benefit. The situation was dramatic. It meant ruin.
Raquel set the alarm clock every day to call SEPE from the first hour, until one day an employee answered the other side. The girl, very attentive, explained that this was more or less legal. That under certain conditions, you could choose whether to receive the new ERTE-COVID benefit or your old unemployment. Raquel replied that she was never offered any choice. The employee told her that SEPE had chosen for her. Raquel asked to change the old benefit for the ERTE-COVID. The official told her that nothing could be managed by phone, only queries. To make claims she would have to wait for the offices to open or do it online if she had a digital certificate. Raquel didn't have it and she couldn't obtain it, because the agencies that issued it (Treasury and the Social Security treasury) were also closed due to the state of alarm.
The same had happened in the case of her companions. Some communicated with other companies, with other schools. The case was widespread, and on a majority of occasions SEPE employees claimed that it was the companies' fault for misdelivering the documentation. The companies showed their papers and the acceptance of ERTE-COVID by SEPE. There had been no mistake.
The three and a half months passed in agony. The confinement ended. The state of alarm was lifted, and the SEPE offices were still closed. Raquel already owes two rent receipts. Her miserable benefit has already been exhausted. Now, no matter how hard she tries, nobody at SEPE picks her calls. A listing on the SEPE website tells that most offices will open soon. The day before yesterday only Madrid and Catalonia were missing. Today it's announced that Madrid and Tarragona will open next week, but she is from Barcelona and Barcelona, Lleida and Girona have no opening date yet.
Raquel, without knowing what to do, turns on the television. A week ago, the Prime Minister announced that all ERTES files had been resolved. The news begins and there's no mention of what's happening. Raquel is invaded by a deep rage to which she does not know how to escape. She still don't believe what's going on. She are weighing options that she never thought possible. To pay off all her expenses and try to negotiate a settlement with the landlord. To call her family to ask them to take her in for a while ... But now she can only cry.
This is the case of Raquel, and as Matías Prats said in an advertisement, "..and that of more people every day".
This is happening. People are being left behind. Many of them.