The Swedish clothing giant H&M will lay off in Spain more than a thousand employees who were already under temporary unemployment plans due to the covid-19 pandemic, the company’s management and the Spanish union Commissions Workers announced on Tuesday.

The group informed union representatives that it is going to initiate an ERE (employment regulation file) “that will affect more than 1,000 people,” and that it is going to close 30 stores in the country, the union explained in its statement.

The “collective dismissal procedure will affect a maximum of 1,100 employees,” H&M confirmed shortly after in a statement, specifying that store closures will be staggered until early 2022.

Sunk by the pandemic, the group decided to close this year 350 of its 5,000 stores worldwide, and open 100 at the same time, in order to adapt to the “increasing digitization” of the fashion industry, where sales by Internet does not stop growing, explained the Swedish company in the statement.

H&M has not announced other layoffs in other countries, and specified that in the case of Spain it will give priority, whenever possible, to voluntary departures.

“H&M goes from ERTE (temporary unemployment plans) to ERE (employment regulation file) in an unjustified and disproportionate way,” Comisiones Obreras denounced in turn.

“While it is true that there may have been a change in consumer habits, this does not in any case justify such a number of layoffs, especially considering that H&M has been benefiting” from the ERTEs, funded by the State, the union pointed out.

The extension of the public financing of partial unemployment has been one of the main measures of the left-wing government of Pedro Sánchez to limit the dismissals as a result of the pandemic.

Its cost has been enormous for Spanish public finances, with more than 40,000 million euros (47,275 million dollars) since the beginning of the pandemic.

But this aid is accompanied by the prohibition of firing the beneficiary companies for six months, under pain of having to return the money.

“According to the regulations in force and the conditions in which the company applied the partial unemployment, we do not currently have the obligation to maintain the jobs,” H&M told AFP.

H&M saw its annual profit divided by ten in 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic.

Despite the low global business volume, internet sales grew 40% year-on-year in 2020, and accounted for a third of the group’s total sales last year.

emi / du-avl / mar

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