Telefonica to trial 4-day week as Spain's telcos adjust to pandemic

MADRID, June 22 (Reuters) - Telefonica will offer part of their workforce the opportunity to participate in a four-day week pilot programme, due to start in October and last three months, as part of wider negotiations with unions in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal, signed with Spanish labour unions on Tuesday and valid until end-2022, includes the three-month trial which would let staff work four days a week on a voluntary and role-dependent basis, in exchange for a 15% pay cut.

“We’re going ahead with a flexible working model which proved feasible during the pandemic,” Emilio Gayo, president of Telefonica Spain, said in a statement. “This agreement shows our strong commitment to new ways of working.”

Telefonica says it is the first Spanish company to incorporate the 32-hour week into its business model.

“We still don’t know how many employees will be interested in the trial,” UGT union representative Diego Gallart told Reuters. “But a substantial portion of the workforce is keen for remote work days to be increased and maintained long-term.”

The telecoms operator will also grant employees two days of remote working a week, which they can accumulate and use flexibly if their supervisor agrees, and will set no limits on where the remote work must take place from.

“We will try to increase (the number of remote working days) if it’s possible to do so without impacting the company’s operations,” added Gallart. “In the past year, people have taken to remote working - they’re no longer scared of it.”

Rival operators Orange and Vodafone had in recent months reached similar agreements with labour unions to grant staff weekly remote work days - two in Orange’s case and three in Vodafone’s - with varying degrees of flexibility. (Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette Editing by Bernadette Baum)