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Entries in Spain (10)

Sunday
Nov102013

Vouchers used as worker compensation in Spain

Maybe the Bitcoin craze isn't that odd after all. If was a worker at Arbol in Spain I would certainly prefer this over the new proposed scheme to compensate workers who work Sundays and holidays. I am sorry that the link is only available in Spanish (I am sure this will start going the rounds though!!); this bit though is pretty clear even if your Spanish is limited. 

El grupo de supermercados El Árbol pagará a sus trabajadores la compensación por trabajar los domingos y festivos con cheques de compra.

This is an amazing turn of events in Europe just as we thought that the recovery was in sight. on his Facebook page, Edward Hugh links this to the Tommy Shop system (the Truck System) in the 19th century of the UK. 

The truck system is back in Spain. Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but from now on the Spanish supermarket chain El Arbol has announced it will pay its workers for Saturdays and Sundays in vouchers exchangeable for products at the shop. I remember from my school days in the UK this 19th century practice was called the "Tommy Shop" system.

The British agriculturist and political reformer William Cobbett describes the logic of the Tommy as follows:

"The manner of carrying on the tommy system is this: suppose there to be a master who employs a hundred men. That hundred men, let us suppose, to earn a pound a week each. This is not the case in the iron-works; but no matter, we can illustrate our meaning by one sum as well as by another." "These men lay out weekly the whole of the hundred pounds in victuals, drink, clothing, bedding, fuel, and house-rent. Now, the master finding the profits of his trade fall off very much, and being at the same time in want of money to pay the hundred pounds weekly, and perceiving that these hundred pounds are carried away at once, and given to shopkeepers of various descriptions; to butchers, bakers, drapers, hatters, shoemakers, and the rest; and knowing that, on an average, these shopkeepers must all have a profit of thirty per cent., or more, he determines to keep this thirty per cent. to himself; and this is thirty pounds a week gained as a shop-keeper, which amounts to 1,560l. a year. He, therefore, sets up a tommy shop: a long place containing every commodity that the workman can want, liquor and house-room excepted."

Not sure yet how much of this kind of thing we will see in Spain. It depends, I suppose, on how long it takes the ECB to get round to trying the use of full blown QE.

The significance of this is difficult to exaggerate in the context of Spain's perceived return to normal. The liquidity squeeze in some parts of the eurozone economy appears acute! However, a much more structural and worrying issue is the ongoing marginalisation of the average worker which is now endemic in Europe it seems.