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Spanish unions announce strike at Repsol

1 December, 2020Spanish affiliates of IndustriALL, UGT FICA, CCOO de Industria and USO, have announced strike action in response to the energy company’s plan to close 16 office centres in Repsol Butano.

The joint union committee announced strike action from December 9 to 12 and from December 21 to January 9, 2021, after the company refused to negotiate. The decision to close commercial offices with more than 100 customer-facing and administrative jobs was announced in September. In addition to the closures, the company announced a reduction of the workforce that will lead to an increased work load, and decrease the possibility of teleworking.

Unions regret the lack of dialogue from the company, which is taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the empty rhetoric about Just Transition. The measures were introduced without the involvement of the union, without dialogue and transparency, and without referencing the transition that is taking place in the company to adapt to changing business needs.

Like many companies in the sector, Repsol wants to divest itself of assets to free capital for potential future investments. The LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) division, Repsol Butano, is in good financial health, reporting a profit of more than 80 million euros at the end of September 2020, despite the Covid-19 crisis and the economic shutdown. Other business areas of Repsol have been less successful, partly due to the dramatic fall in the oil price. A previous restructuring in 2015 saw the collective dismissal of 226 workers in Repsol Butano.

Repsol has a reputation for corporate social responsibility and model industrial relations, reaching pioneering agreements with unions on issues such as harassment and prevention of violence, work-life balance, time banking, digital disconnection and teleworking.

But unions feel that this image hides a breakdown in dialogue and a growing tendency of the company to act unilaterally. Unions are also concerned that the company is increasingly reactive to short-term market trends, and is not thinking strategically about energy transition.

Agustín Martín CCOO de Industria said,

“We are not going to allow an energy transition to take place as a fait accompli. We are going to fight for a Just Transition and jobs with a guaranteed future. We are fighting for a real industrial plan.”

Pedro Hojas of UGT FICA said,

“We rallied at Repsol to ask management to listen to the workers and to ask that the energy transition in the company will be done in an orderly manner, without losing jobs or rights. Maintaining the dialogue and social responsibility that has characterised management's relationship with the workers in the past is critical for the future of Repsol.”

Pedro Ayllón of USO Federación de Industria said, Pedro Ayllón of USO Federación de Industria said,

“We show our firmest opposition to the way in which Repsol is acting, despising its workers, not giving them a stake in the future of their company, using a policy of imposition and not negotiation. This is why we have mobilized at Repsol, to fight for a just energy transition and to defend the jobs and rights of all its workers.

In a solidarity letter to the unions, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches wrote:

“At IndustriALL we believe that any energy transition must be a Just Transition for workers and must consist of social dialogue between the company's stakeholders and union representation. Through this dialogue, sustainable industrial policies must be created and workers must be supported with training and the development of new skills. They must then be promoted to fill the new positions that will be created.”