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Just Transition for Spanish thermal power plant workers

24 April, 2020IndustriALL Global Union’s Spanish affiliates CC.OO. de Industria and UGT-FICA have signed an agreement with the government and the operators of coal-fired power stations that are in the process of being closed - Endesa, Iberdrola and Naturgy - for a Just Transition for the energy sector with measures protecting workers in the industry.

The agreement involves creating a framework to monitor the workers involved through training plans and measures aimed at outplacement.

In recent years, the operating prospects of thermal power plants have been affected by a range of technical, economic and regulatory factors, such as policies to transition to renewable energies, while utility companies need to do investment to reduce the emissions of the power plants. According to a European directive, power plants that do not invest to reduce their emissions must close in 2020.

The closure of 12 out of 15 thermal power plants in Spain will affect some 2,300 workers, 1,300 of whom are directly employed by the three companies while 1,000 are with subcontractors.

In the agreement signed on 17 April, the government and the companies undertake to proactively search for investors with projects that can be located in the affected areas, namely, Asturias, Aragon, Castile and Leon, Galicia and Andalusia taking into account the characteristics and particularities of each territory.

The signatory companies have committed to develop support plans and will work to maintain employment through the relocation of direct jobs and prioritizing the recruitment of workers from auxiliary companies. The companies are looking at outplacement plans for their own staff and considering the priority of hiring workers from auxiliary companies for tasks related to new activities and the dismantling and restoration of the plants.

There will be specific measures to facilitate employment for workers over the age 52, helping companies with bonuses for their hiring. Companies will also make proposals for new investments in the same territories related to energy generation through renewable energies.

The unions are committed to facilitating the fulfilment and monitoring of commitments in the areas of training, occupational risk prevention, reindustrialization and dissemination of the agreement.

The parties have agreed to set up a monitoring committee to ensure compliance with the agreement, which will meet every six months or whenever one of the parties so requests.

Agustín Martin, general secretary of CC.OO. de Industria comments:

“We are working tirelessly with energy transition, demanding that it is done in a fair way for the workers and the affected territories. We will continue proposing, negotiating and signing agreements to seek new opportunities for those affected. This agreement is a base for signatories at all levels (state, regional, provincial, county and local) to seek solutions for workers affected by the closure of coal-fired power plants.”

Says Pedro Hojas, general secretary of UGT-FICA:

“We have worked to guarantee a Just Transition for workers from the main company and contract company  and that the territories have industrial and employment alternatives since negotiations began more than a year ago. The companies that own the thermal power plants have committed to investing in these territories through their own projects and to attract other types of projects.

"All levels of administration, both the government, the autonomous communities and town halls, have committed to work together and provide the necessary economic resources so that no one is left without a job. This agreement lays the foundations for meeting the objectives we set at the beginning of the negotiations."

The electricity sector in Spain employs 85,000 people and represents almost a quarter of the country's final energy consumption and contributes around 2 per cent to GDP.