The Basque Country borders the industrial coma with a thread of activity
Some SMEs and large firms partially reopen to meet commitments with their foreign clients
In the industrial park of Júndiz, in Vitoria, the noise of the machines, cars and people has given way to the most absolute silence. The stoppage of activity is almost total in the largest industrial area in the Basque Country, except in the area of road transport. In addition to the Mercedes Benz plant, which sent 4,900 of its 5,000 workers home with an ERTE until at least mid-April, the rest of the half a thousand companies in Júndiz have lowered the blind. Álava is the Spanish province in which the industry has more weight in the GDP, more than 33%. In the Basque Country there are already 148,295 workers affected in some 21,000 ERTES, according to the employers (7,303 files in Gipúzkoa, 11,341 in Bizcaia and 3,090 in Álava).
After the decree on Sunday that paralyzed all non-essential activity and the authorized relaxation two days later , some companies, such as Michelin, in the Gamarra industrial estate, are considering reopening. The Basque industry, clearly exporting, holds its breath so that on April 14 the restrictions are over and they can return to normalcy.
The steel industry and other companies with export commitments, which were able to resume production on Wednesday between 10% and 30%, have pulled the Basque economy out of an announced coma, according to Basque employers.
This is the case of Alava Tubacex . In the Llodio plant, an employee writes down the names and takes the temperature of the few who work before opening the barrier. Around him everything is closed. The director of the steel and extrusion business units, Celestino Danis, explains that they have resumed activity, albeit at low levels, with a replacement instead of the usual three. “We are not going to be able to meet all clients, but at least we will be able to meet those with the greatest impact,” he says. Tubacex exports more than 90% of its production of seamless steel tubes and supplies raw materials and components to other essential sectors. Danis hopes to return 100% at the latest on April 14. “But with all the prevention, right now the future does not go beyond a week.”
In Vitoria, you can only hear the clash of metals inside Sidenor. The noise is caused by two maintenance employees who control furnaces and water pumps. “We are alone, and we do four hours a week,” they say, “there are certain systems that cannot be turned off,” they tell from the car when they leave, after noon.
In Idiazabal and Beasain (Gipuzkoa), where companies meander down the Orio river, there is more movement, but it is a mirage. Ner Group’s AMPO foundry barely caters to exports and so does Arcelor Mittal’s. The CAF railway, one of the tractor units in the area, has not resorted to an ERTE but to an agreement to recover the days of stoppage, until April 20, throughout this year. The management has lowered the salary by 5%. Employees will keep theirs. Around 1,500 already telecommute, but the workshops are closed, except for 70 workers (45 in Beasain and Irún and 25 in Zaragoza) who returned to work this Wednesday. Jokin IZ is one of them. Leave one of the railway pavilions at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. “I’m practically alone in this area,
Despite having a record order book, CAF, which employs 4,000 people at the Beasain, Irún and Zaragoza plants, decided to stop the workshops before the decree on Sunday 29, to reopen with 70 employees last Wednesday. “This release will allow us to carry out work that can help us return to normality,” says the firm’s director of communication, Iñaki Escrig. They have three contracts to fulfill imminently with deliveries of units for the Oakland, California suburban network, for the Naples metro, Italy, and for Liege, in Belgium.
In the dense industrial area of Basauri, in Bizkaia , the only bustle comes from Mercabilbao. The managing director of the Basque Federation of Metal Companies (FVEM), Adolfo Rey, explains that the firms were already below 50% activity in Bizkaia, and SMEs, the most agile in reversing a closure, what They are doing, but with many problems due to lack of supplies. Of the 860 grouped in the FVEM, which employ 35,000 people out of the 52,000 that the sector has in Bizkaia, 52% are exporters. “An Ortuella company told me that it has three contracts with automotive companies in May, June and July and that it was dying. On Tuesday they saw the light when the central government opened their hands and the Basque government authorized them to return to business. And how are many, “says Rey.
More than 60% of metal companies confirmed in a survey Tuesday that they were either paralyzed or maintaining a production thread of between 10% and 25%. “The news on Tuesday that some more activity could be maintained has given many companies some hope not to be forced to close, and the Basque economy a bit of a push to overcome the paralysis of the economy,” he explains.