Surprise inspections for Big Four accounting firms accused of running sweatshop practices in their Spain offices

ACCUSATIONS that they were making their Spanish employees work 84 hour weeks triggered simultaneous surprise inspections for the big four accounting firms by Spain’s labour ministry.

The Madrid offices of PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte received visits from government inspectors last November investigating potentially abusive practices, the FT report.

The ministry said it was concerned about compliance with both labour and social security law at the consulting giants.

“Our main objective is to check whether there are any overtime hours for which employees have not been paid or received subsequent time off.”

The big four host 20,000 employees in their Madrid skyscrapers, many of whom are new graduates eager to get their accounting accreditation and a big name company on their CV.

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The four firms, whose skyscrapers tower over Madrid (pictured) generate combined annual revenues of more than €700 million in Spain

However, the big four are thought to take advantage of this level of demand.

Their legal services divisions — a big part of their Spanish operations — pays their trainees as little as €14,000 a year and junior staff just under €35,000, according to research by the IE Law School and Signium, an executive search firm.

In contrast, a junior analyst in investment banking in Spain could earn €100,000 per year – although also for a very punishing work schedule.

A group of junior auditors at EY’s Barcelona office complained to bosses in an email in 2021 that they were having to work 84 hours a week, which they described as ‘unsustainable’.

Yolanda Díaz, labour minister and one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers, 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.”

Left-wing Díaz has made working conditions a central focus for the labour ministry after a law was introduced in 2019 that requires the start and end times of the working day to be noted.

More than 11,000 infringements affecting nearly 113,000 workers were recorded last year, triggering fines of almost €14 million.

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