Friday, March 24

Our priority, wages

Millions of workers in our country are having a hard time making it to the end of the month. The “things of eating” are at stake and the crisis of inflation and prices that we are experiencing at European level and in the Western world, further aggravates the situation. And that no working person, nor any family is left behind, that is our daily goal. And that is why our great battle horse is the just fight for wage increases – in general – and, in addition to the increase, committed by the Government, of the Interprofessional Minimum Wage (SMI).

It is so true that we are facing a serious inflationary crisis as that for the first time the 20 million contributors have been exceeded in Spain, that unemployment has fallen below 3 million, that indefinite contracts have gone from 8 to 50%, that tourism has been more than 25% this summer than in 2019 and that most companies are in record profits and dividends.

In no case are wages a cause of inflation. The real salary has been stagnant since 2008 and the salary agreed by agreement has only risen by 2.8%, while in Spain we have inflation that exceeds 10%. The causes of inflation come from a context of transformation and digitization of the economy, from the collapse of the global supply chain after the pandemic, and above all from the energy crisis aggravated by Russia’s war against Ukraine, and even more so by the transfer of this situation to the final prices in most companies to maintain their margins and profits. Second-round inflation is not being generated by wages, but by corporate profits.

Given this situation, raising wages is already an economic and social necessity of the first order, but also controlling prices. What is not understood is why the employers continue to deny working people that they can recover purchasing power or, at least, that they do not suffer a flagrant loss of it so immediately, a fact that punishes internal consumption and slows down the economy. They are old anti-inflationist recipes from the 20th century.

It is important to remember again that the CEOE has been blocking collective bargaining for months. It will be 4 months since they left the table on a global salary agreement on May 5. As is known, from the unions we reached an agreement to propose to the employers a salary increase of 3.5% for this year, 2.5% in 2023 and 2% for 2024, together with a clause of annual salary review so that working people can recover that purchasing power, even if it is not the entire recovery the first year, if not deferred. With an IPC that is over 10%, it seems reasonable and prudent to us, but the CEOE did not accept our proposal.

The rising cost of living anticipates an autumn of labor unrest: a hot autumn to curb a cold winter. And these mobilizations are a prelude to what will happen in the whole of Europe and in Spain if the employers do not sit down to negotiate the agreements and we are not capable of transferring the increase in the cost of living to wages. Because it cannot be that once again it is the citizens who have to pay for the broken dishes of another economic crisis.

Our highest priority, therefore, is this fight for wage increases, in the negotiation of collective agreements; and, also in the rise of the SMI to €1,100 that the Government of Spain must still do, as promised, because the people who earn the least in this country must not be left behind.

Added to this is the escalation of the Euribor and the continued runaway inflation. For this reason, the rise in the SMI is essential. It makes no sense to say in the morning that we are not going to leave anyone behind and in the afternoon that the people of this country are going to lose 5% of purchasing power. The SMI affects 3.5 million people who have many problems, who are having a really bad time and who have to see their standard of living increase after the crisis we have experienced. We must protect people who are more vulnerable every day and families. The Government has a great responsibility right now, and it must comply with the citizenship.

The unions will continue to be present in all the struggles that serve to improve the lives of working people, and to demand better wages and better working conditions. If the CEOE does not change its position, from the unions we will ask the workers of our country to take to the streets.

We cannot allow the working class to be impoverished in this crisis scenario. It is essential for the country that the CEOE sit down to negotiate and understand the importance of guaranteeing the purchasing power of workers, since it is a matter of social justice that will also contribute to generating consumption and employment. From the UGT we will fight so that no worker is left behind. We understand that this crisis should not be paid for by the working class that has risen to the occasion, once again, during the coronavirus pandemic that caused so much damage to the world. We have made reasonable proposals to the CEOE, but it is difficult to reach an agreement if one of the parties is not willing to negotiate. I repeat, what cannot be allowed is that the efforts always have to be the same, that the scales always tip to the same side. We are committed to dialogue, but if the other party closes in, they will have us in the streets.