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January 27, 2023

A Spanish Communist Is Concerned About Excessively Long Hours at Big 4 Firms

clock and office worker representing overtime

This story was highlighted in yesterday’s Monday news brief but it deserves its own spot so that future generations might Google “Big 4 abusive practices” and stumble upon it.

Financial Times reported that the labor ministry of Spain sent inspectors to the Madrid offices of Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC back in November in the course of investigating “potentially abusive practices.” Mainly the ministry wants to know if “there are any overtime hours for which employees have not been paid or received subsequent time off.”

Deputy prime minister, lifelong member of the Communist party, and super popular politician Yolanda Díaz said: “The excesses and abuses of overtime hours are being investigated and the mandate is clear . . . No big company, no matter how big, is beyond the law.”

The FT report goes on to rehash a story about second-year auditors at EY Barcelona headquarters who complained to El País about working up to 84 hours a week for €24,000 a year. My Spanish is rusty AND the 2021 El País story is behind a paywall so here is Catalan paper Ara summing it up:

According to the newspaper El País this Tuesday, about thirty auditors have informed their bosses of their fatigue and discomfort with these endless days through a collective complaint sent by email. The newspaper specifies that the message was sent last Thursday to the Barcelona office partners and exposed, in addition to fatigue, lack of staff, exaggerated staff turnover or delivery deadlines that are impossible to meet. All this for a salary of €24,000 a year.

Sources in the consultancy firm assured the same newspaper that it is the first time they receive a complaint of this type and argue that these are specific cases and attribute them to “pandemic fatigue”. At the same time they say that long days are compensated with days off or overtime pay.

Back to FT. For some completely explicable reason (i.e. because they can), FT found a banker to roast people working at the Big 4 and point out for the millionth time how little money they make compared to other professional services. Way to twist the knife, guy.

One senior executive at a foreign bank in Madrid who interacts regularly with the Big Four said work there was “a few notches below investment banking” in terms of prestige and salary, but not significantly less arduous. “They work very hard but make a fraction of what you make in banking.”

The executive said a junior analyst in investment banking in Spain could earn €100,000 ($108k USD) per year. By contrast, in the Big Four’s legal services divisions — a big part of their Spanish operations — trainees earn less than €14,000 ($15k) a year and junior staff just under €35,000 ($38k), according to research by the IE Law School and Signium, an executive search firm.

Díaz has made this her personal cause since 2019, her office identified more than 11,000 violations affecting almost 113,000 workers, leading to penalties of nearly €14 million last year alone. Here is an interesting POLITICO profile on her if you want to dig in further.

EY, KPMG and Deloitte would not comment to FT. PwC didn’t bother to respond.

Watch this space, something may come of all this digging around.

 

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