Thursday, February 2

Employers and unions initiate contacts to agree on how wages should rise

  • CEOE, Cepyme, CCOO and UGT begin to negotiate a new Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining (AENC) with the intention of having it closed before the end of the first semester

the bosses and the unions have begun conversations to define how they should upload the salaries in the coming years, as confirmed to EL PERIÓODICO by sources from both groups. In the midst of an inflationary spiral, with salaries losing purchasing power and with collective bargaining semi-blocked for almost two years, CEOE, Cepyme, CCOO Y UGT have started the negotiation of a new Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining (AENC). This is a kind of agreement of agreements that the leaders of the social agents agree on on a regular three-year basis to serve as a guide later in the negotiations of sector-by-sector and province-by-province agreements. It is not mandatory, but it does serve as a reference and guides the inertia of most negotiations. The intention of the parties is to have this new agreement closed before the end of the first half of the year.

The last AENC expired last December 2020 and since then the social agents had yet to sit down again to try to agree again on the parameters, for example, on how salaries should rise in the next agreements that are renewed. In the IV AENC, the last one, the agreed forks were between 2 and 3%. Currently wages by agreement grow at 1.5%, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Labor.

It will be difficult for the unions to fall below that range of 2-3%, given the current evolution of the IPC and the loss of purchasing power that workers have suffered since the start of the pandemic. The employers, for their part, have so far been reluctant to assume significant wage increases to avoid a significant increase in costs and alleging the economic uncertainty that still weighs on certain sectors.

The lack of a consensus among the leaders of the social agents explains part of the blockade that collective bargaining is currently suffering in Spain. According to the latest Labor data, 2021 closed with 7.6 million workers covered by agreements in force -half of active wage earners in Spain-, its lowest figure in the available statistics.

Minimum wage and telecommuting

In the previous AENC it was also agreed that no agreement should include salaries below 1,000 euros gross per month (or 14,000 euros per year). A figure that the employers already signed then and to which the Government now wants to bring the minimum interprofessional wage (SMI) closer. This negotiation will begin on Monday, February 7. That of the AENC will formally begin on March 3, since the parties have given themselves a period of just over a month to internally define their positions and thus be able to exchange first proposals in that conclave.

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Well, that ‘agreement of agreements’ includes more matters than the purely salary and also agrees, for example, issues related to the organization of the day. Here the novelty of telecommuting promises to be a central issue in the next AENC, since it is also an area in which companies and workers are encountering obstacles to understand each other. To the point that, after a year in force of the new teleworking law (which leaves a large part of its specification to negotiation via agreement), only 3% of wage earners are covered by a collective specification that specifically regulates remote work. The general blockade of collective bargaining has also hampered this issue.

The intention is to have the call to be the V AENC closed before the end of the first half of 2022. For this, the parties will formally begin negotiating on March 3 and, from then on, the parties will meet every 15 days to exchange proposals and thus be able to close this new bipartite social dialogue agreement within three months. The evolution of inflation -which is not clear that it will subside in the short term- and the new balances introduced by the labor reform, which strengthens the positions of the unions, will mark the negotiation between employers and centrals.