Fake volunteer contracts in an NGO to help the most vulnerable

BarcelonaBook Picasso and the 4 Cats, for 20 euros. One by Dalí, for 10. And hundreds of second-hand novels for one, two, three or four euros. The Llibre Solidari association receives donations of books – also clothes and music – and allocates part of the income to solidarity. But this NGO dedicated since 2011 to helping the most disadvantaged has received four complaints on labor issues, mainly for having signed false volunteer contracts. In October, they also received an inspection at two of their premises in Barcelona where cases of irregular workers were found.

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Llibre Solidari came to have almost 60 workers, including volunteers, most of them from outside Spain. They had points of sale in several metro stops in Barcelona, ​​nine premises and two stands in markets. Before the pandemic, they received more than 400,000 euros, of which, they say, between 25% and 30% went to charitable causes in which they collaborate with Barcelona City Council. At the metro stops, they get most of the income: more than 313,000 euros, for example, in 2018. Until February, when the agreement with TMB ends, they pay 652 euros per month for each stand and they have young people who they are in charge of setting up and dismantling the stall and selling the books. The salesmen entered as volunteers, signing a contract that made it clear that they could not be subject to timetables and that they could receive up to 14 euros per day for transport and per diems. According to the complaints to which the ARA has had access, the employees had schedules and were paid a fixed amount depending on the hours: one of them received 460 euros for working between 6 and 7 hours from Monday to Saturday. In addition, and always according to the complaints, payments were made late, rarely when due, and some are still owed money.

An ephemeral business

At the beginning of the year Berta Bagur, director of the project, wanted to go one step further. He rented a premises in Carrer Balmes in Barcelona to open a Gastrollibreria. The works were prolonged and he could not release it until September 13, when, in reality, he had planned to do it on April 23. The problems related to this new investment, where much of the money obtained from the stalls went, were added to the labor complaints and personal issues of Bagur, who fell into depression and had to withdraw from the business. After a few days, moreover, the inspection arrived and the Gastrolibreria closed. Also one of the local and market stalls. Decisions made by one of Bagur’s brothers, who has taken the reins of the association temporarily, until, at the beginning of the year, the board decides what they will do.

When asked about the allegations, a spokesperson for Llibre Solidari does not hide: there has been “bad management”. They do not avoid responsibility: they know that they will have to pay the workers, that they have a debt with Social Security and that they are exposed to a fine resulting from the inspection. They claim that as a result of the allegations, they have regularized “the four or five volunteers” who were without an employment contract and are exhaustive about Berta Bagur: there was no “profit motive”, she did not get rich and “many times she did not even get paid”.

One of the complainants told the ARA that he was working as a driver, carrying the books up and down Barcelona, ​​first making invoices through a third party and then without being insured. “Any uninsured worker is a danger,” the organization admits without excuses. In 2023 there will be trials with the complainants, who also claim that the compensations were calculated downwards. “I said I would talk to a lawyer and Berta [Bagur, directora del projecte] he answered me that he had no options because he had no papers,” laments one girl. “They take advantage of our vulnerability,” adds another. For Natxo Parra, a lawyer for the Ronda Collective, these are breaches “very serious” in labor matters, but for it to be a criminal offense there would have to be “10 or more people” working without a contract.

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