There is a reward for creating quality employment and promoting equality of opportunity for people with disabilities

06/09/11

Lantegi Batuak is a fine example that the only things which are impossible are those we do not attempt. Whilst it is very difficult for anyone to get a job in the current crisis, it is even more so for people with disabilities. However, the workers at Lantegi Batuak have demonstrated that -with effort and commitment- the most challenging targets can be achieved.

This company based in Vizcaya now employs 2,700 people. Of these, around 2,400 have some form of disability, usually intellectual. However, this does not stop them employing their abilities to perform work which is useful for them and for society. This is the explanation given by the company’s managing director, Txema Franco, who says that he is not worried about the current crisis, as the company was formed “at a time of real crisis, in 1983, when unemployment was 25%, and when everyone told us that it was the worst time to try to create anything. But here we are”, he says with pride.

They were a group of parents and relations of people with disabilities who decided to expand a small workshop which had been operating since 1971, and which can be considered the real seed from which Lantegi Batuak has grown; since the outset, it has been dedicated to what Txema Franco defines as “real jobs”. The intention was not to provide entertainment for people with disabilities in some kind of daycare centre. “We didn’t want charity. We wanted to demonstrate that we could fill any orders placed and that we were a serious company”, he states.

Since then, the company has won many contracts for work which is “very varied, but often related to industry”. However, the decentralization caused by globalization, the economic crisis and new production models has resulted in Lantegi Batuak gradually committing to diversification. “After failing a few times with some projects, we have learnt and managed to grow and diversify; as a result, 50% of our activity is now related to industrial processes, with the remainder being related to services”, Franco adds.

News about the success achieved by Lantegi Batuak (which translates into English as something like United Workshops) has spread widely. “Many people have asked us if we are going to expand in other areas: the answer is no, we have no plans to leave Vizcaya. We were created to help people with disabilities in our area”, the managing director of this Basque company states; however, they have advised on and explained their success to a large number of similar companies which want to set up or expand in other areas following the model which has brought so much success to Lantegi Batuak.

Although Franco is proud to explain how this not-for-profit organization works, he is, he says, more proud of contributing to changing the attitudes of society to the group that works in the company. “Today they are called people with disabilities and nobody is surprised to see someone stocking fruit in a large supermarket or a gardener with some form of disability,” the managing director says, although he goes a step further and states that “however, we prefer to talk about people with abilities”.

Lantegi Batuak’s objective is to consolidate the level and quality of its jobs, generating employment opportunities which are appropriate for the needs of people with disabilities and developing a benchmark personal development model.

Motivation

The motivation of the workforce is key to achieving this objective. “And awards are great motivators”, Txema Franco says. “Our employees feel that the awards are for them. They are the ones who do the work and enable the company to receive prizes”, he recognizes. The company has received many awards in its time. The latest is the 3rd BBVA Integra Award.

Patricia Bueno , BBVA Spain and Portugal Corporate Responsibility and Reputation director, explains that Lantegi Batuak is a “worthy winner of the Integra Award. This is demonstrated by the facts and figures”. Furthermore, the award jury also appreciated the fact that all the actions, projects and procedures carried out by Lantegi Batuak serve not-for-profit bodies, thus encouraging knowledge transfer and creating a network of best practices for bodies working with the disabled and so multiplying their effects.

“It is also the case that every year it is getting harder and harder for the Integra Award jury to decide on the winning company,” the BBVA Spain and Portugal Corporate Responsibility and Reputation director said. “This is a very encouraging aspect as it shows that the level of the candidates is very high. For that reason, we invite them to continue taking part in the future Award processes and to continue working as they are”, she added.

The award, for the employees

When a company wins an award, it is usually collected by a senior manager. In this case, the chairman of BBVA, Francisco González, presented the reward to one of the disabled workers who was representing the rest of the workforce. “It is difficult to explain how excited she was. Being surrounded by so many important people, going up onto the stage… It was absolutely amazing” says Txema Franco, whose daily contact with these people has helped him put a lot of things into perspective. “For example, she had never been in a plane before. It was a new experience for her, a party. A lot of us are bored with having to fly, but these little things show you what is really important in life and what isn’t,” he reflected.

“The fact that the workers were at the centre of this achievement, even when collecting the award, is helping us to develop, as motivating people is the best way of ensuring greater participation and innovation in the organization. These positive results will enable us to improve our business project, contributing to its sustainability and enabling the investment required in infrastructure, technology and improving management” he added.

Winning the 3rd BBVA Integra Award, with a prize of 200,000 euros is an incentive for pursuing a path which is not always easy, and for making the project sustainable which at the moment is supported by subsidies from the regional government of Vizcaya and the Basque Government, together with help from some private entities.

Patricia Bueno states that the purpose of the BBVA Integra Award is “to promote excellence and innovation in integrating people with disabilities into the workforce and to promote equal opportunities and improve quality of life for disabled people”.

At the award ceremony on July 13, BBVA Chairman Francisco González stated that “Lantegi Batuak is a magnificent example of what we call social entrepreneurship. BBVA considers social entrepreneurs to be people who recognize a social problem and who are capable of creating, managing and developing an economically sustainable business project which results in social change”.

Such social change is what the people who work at Lantegi Batuak everyday fervently desire. “Our ultimate objective? Well, that in the not too distant future there will be no need for companies like ours because our workers will be working in conventional companies”, says Txema Franco.

For now, Lantegi Batuak is concentrating on diversification to open up employment opportunities in the fields of tourism, hospitality, care services and new technology. At present, this Vizcaya company is involved in activities ranging from electronics, digitalization and hospitality to environmental services.

BBVA’s Corporate Responsibility and Reputation director for Spain and Portugal says that the Bank pays particular attention to training and financial inclusion for all. This includes people with disabilities. “We are working so that they can interrelate with us and access our banking services using all of our channels as a person without a disability would. We are currently diagnosing our channels (branches, Internet, telephone banking etc.) and how we can improve our services to people with disabilities”, she explained.

An ambitious Plan

The Integra Award -which has gone to Lantegi Batuak this year- is one part of this more wide-reaching plan. It is part of BBVA’s Integra Plan which the Bank is implementing internally across all Human Resources, Procurements, Premises & Services and Business Departments coordinated by the Corporate Responsibility Department, which reports to the Communication and Brand Department. The purpose of the Plan is to promote social and employment integration for people with disabilities, in addition to reinforcing the concepts of equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

According to BBVA’s Corporate Responsibility and Reputation director for Spain and Portugal, the Bank is working for a better future for all. “In this regard, the BBVA Integra Award is a manifestation of our commitment to people with disabilities. We believe that the best way to make life normal for people with disabilities is through employment and, as a result, social inclusion. This Award provides recognition for those bodies which are working everyday to achieve this social and employment inclusion for people with disabilities, particularly when they are doing so in a way which is innovative and effective”.

BBVA’s objective is to “consolidate the Award and try to maximize the transfer of winning projects as a source of best practice models in the field of disability” Patricia Bueno concludes.

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