The contribution of students in unpaid internships becomes the subject of debate. After almost two years of negotiations between unions, employers and the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations on this issue, the entry into force of this obligation in October is up in the air. The Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) had already positioned itself against this measure on several occasions because it entailed an “increase in costs” for companies that could reduce the offer of internships, but its president, Eva Alcón, fueled the debate a few weeks ago requesting a moratorium on its application. José Luis Escrivá has not ruled on the matter, but his Ministry sources tell La Información that delaying the contribution of these students is being studied.
The social agents -CCOO, UGT, CEOE and Cepymese committed in the first part of the pension reform agreed in July 2021 to develop a regulation to guarantee the contribution of all scholarship holders within a maximum period of six months. In this agreement, the parties specified that the State would subsidize 75% of this contribution, given that until then the public system only covered curricular practices, that is, those that are part of the study program and, therefore, are mandatory for get the degree. However, the Government ended up failing to meet these deadlines, so this issue did not materialize until the second part of the pension system reform, which closed in March 2023 without the signature of the employers.
In this second attempt, the unions allowed the State to assume up to 97% of the contribution until 2024, when it would go on to subsidize 95%. Consequently, the impact for companies of this obligation to contribute is minimal, so it is not a concern for the representatives of the employers. However, the rectors have denounced that this measure will mean an increase in bureaucracy and, therefore, a workload that they cannot assume. The training centers have received the support of the Ministry of Universities, headed by Joan Subirats. The general secretary of the department, José Manuel Pingarrón, positioned himself in favor of granting the rectors the moratorium they have requested.
The unions fear that the ministry will give in to pressure
Union sources confess that they are aware of the influence that the university sector has on the Government and fear that the Ministry of Escrivá ended up opting in favor of the rectors, instead of ensuring the rights of the students that they have had since the beginning of the legislature waiting for its listing to be consolidated. In this sense, the general secretary of the CCOO, Unai Sordo, has also pronounced, who pointed out this Thursday in the presentation of the Scholarship Statute that the lack of financing of the university system cannot be translated into a stumbling block for the implementation of these advances.
The representative of Comisiones Obreras has charged the rectors for opposing the compensation of expenses included in the Scholarship Statute, which will be mandatory, but must be agreed between the training company and the study center. This amount aims to cover the expenses incurred by the student to carry out the practices, such as food, transportation or accommodation, although no minimum or maximum limit has been set. For universities, this compensation means an increase in the workload and a new reason to discourage companies from incorporating students into their workforces.
Currently, only students with “study assistance” or paid internships contribute to Social Security and do so as common and professional contingencies. In other words, these contributions cover them in the event of contracting an illness or suffering an accident at work, in addition to adding this period to the years of work experience that are taken into account to access retirement. But they do not contribute for unemployment, nor for the Salary Guarantee Fund (FOGASA), nor to obtain professional training, since their relationship with the company or organization is not of a labor nature.
This point has not been modified in the pension reform, nor in the Scholarship Statute, since the negotiators understood that it would not make sense to obtain the right to this benefit since it is a relationship of a training and non-labor nature. However, the European Parliament has included unemployment among the social rights that they understand, will be accessed by all scholarship holders, regardless of whether they do curricular or extracurricular internships. The MEPs urged the European Commission on Wednesday to prohibit unpaid internships and to recognize a series of rights, among which is also the contribution to the public pension system.