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Management of the giant SEAT car works near Barcelona, who announced last Friday that the plant would stop production due to the coronavirus, has given notice of a temporary lay off of its entire 14,800-strong workforce today. The company claims that this is a force majeure measure and that, although the short-term lay off notice, regulated by labour laws, will be applied to all 14,800 employees at the massive plant in the town of Martorell, its actual application will then be based on a more detailed breakdown of needs.

After meeting with union delegates this afternoon, the company affirms that it will give workers the option of teleworking, guarantee paid leave to pregnant women and 100% of salary to workers who are in isolation and quarantine, and also advises that "no cases of coronavirus have been reported within the company." Thus the company, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, explains that, although the formal layoff notice applies to the entire workforce, "it will only affect those who have to stop their activity due to coronavirus."

On Friday, SEAT management already announced that production at the huge three-production-line plant would come to a halt due to a lack of supplies and to protect the health of the workers. The Martorell plant, which produced over half a million vehicles in 2017, is one of the two largest car works in the large Spanish automotive industry, second only to Germany's at European level.  

Nature of the layoff 

The layoff will be extended for as long as the force majeure lasts, that is, "as long as the circumstances that prevent normal labour activity still apply." During this period, the company also explained that some days could be spent on staff training, and the SEAT management board has agreed to "supplement the unemployment benefit which workers will be entitled to up to levels of 80% of their normal salaries, and include pension supplements." Also, the management of the company has agreed that all employees whose work activity makes remote working possible will not be laid off, in line with government recommendations.

As well, the company will give paid leave to all pregnant workers, who will receive 100% of their salary. It has also guaranteed 100% of salary for all employees who have to go into quarantine after being in contact with people who have been diagnosed as positive in a coronavirus test and those who are in self-isolation, such as those locked down in the Igualada area, not far from the SEAT works. These people will not be affected by the layoff regulations until the end of their quarantine or lockdown.

As well as the temporary layoffs at the SEAT plant, another 70 companies had already advised the Catalan labour ministry by Monday that they will apply similar short-term layoffs to staff due to the coronavirus, affecting 3,819 further workers.   

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