Union slams Vodafone Spain job cuts plan

A major Spanish trade union has hit out at plans by Vodafone's former mobile operation to cut more than 1,000 jobs, calling for strike action at the unit.

Mary Lennighan

June 21, 2024

3 Min Read

The Unión General de Trabajadores, or UGT, earlier this week penned a fairly strongly-worded missive against the job cuts, criticising the company itself, the Spanish government and the broader regulatory environment in Spain. And according to local press reports, it has called two full days of strike action in July, as well as partial strikes throughout the month.

Citing unnamed UGT sources, El Confidencial on Thursday reported that Vodafone workers will be encouraged to strike on 9 and 11 July. The union has also scheduled partial strikes for another half dozen dates between 2 and 17 July, the latter being the deadline date for the unions and the company to reach agreement on the proposed layoffs.

Vodafone Spain, which is now owned by Zegona Communications, the UK-based investment company having closed a €5 billion deal to acquire it from its former parent last month, shared plans to lay off 1,198 staff earlier this month, UGT reported. That figure represents over a third of its workforce.

The telco – which is still known as Vodafone, due to a brand licensing agreement that was included in the sale – blamed economic and organisational factors for the move, which it intimated is necessary to ensure its survival.

But as far as UGT is concerned, Zegona should have been – and almost certainly was – well aware of Vodafone's financial position before the transaction was completed. It believes Zegona is using it as an excuse to cut costs, it said in an analysis of the situation published earlier this week.

It also questioned whether Vodafone properly communicated to the government its need to undertake an ERE, a type of redundancy proceeding in Spain.

"Furthermore, we are concerned, and even surprised, by the Government's passivity in approving the sale without taking into account the possible negative impact on employment," UGT said, in Spanish. "The viability of Vodafone Spain is called into question if it intends to maintain and improve the quality of the network through job destruction. What an oxymoron," the union wrote.

The government has essentially failed in its duty to protect employment in the telecoms sector in particular, UGT believes.

"The telecommunications sector in Spain has been seriously affected by regulation that many consider harmful," it said. "This regulation has contributed to the destruction of employment in a sector that is characterized by offering highly trained jobs, good salaries and decent working conditions, factors that provide real wealth to the territory and generate important tax revenues."

UGT noted that Vodafone's compensation offer to affected employees is equivalent to 24 days' salary per year worked, payable via a maximum of 14 monthly payments. The implication is that it believes this to be insufficient.

The union said that it "rejects...categorically, the collective dismissal proposed in these terms." It urged the company to reconsider its plans and offer a voluntary redundancy package instead.

Given that it has now called upon workers to strike, it may be that its pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Either way, it only has a few weeks to come to some arrangement with Vodafone's new owner...for whom this is something of an ignominious start, as far as the workforce is concerned, at least.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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