No proposal on the reopening of the salary negotiation. This is how the employers’ associations of businessmen, CEOE and Cepyme, attended the long-awaited meeting with the majority unions (CCOO and UGT) to resume the dialogue on a great agreement to increase wages in the face of the current inflationary crisis. This negotiation broke down almost a year ago, in May of last year, without an agreement, in the midst of a price crisis, and the parties had not formally sat down again until this Wednesday.
The salary battle for inflation faces its second round in 2023
The meeting took place this afternoon, at the headquarters of the CEOE employers’ association, and lasted about two hours, until after 8:00 p.m. At the exit, from the CCOO they explained that, although the proposal for wage increases from the unions has been debated and progress has been made on the matters that this great collective bargaining agreement (called AENC) can address, the employers had attended the meeting without a concrete offer.
“There is no proposal today,” reported Maricruz Vicente, CCOO’s confederal secretary for Trade Union Action and Employment. “We have set ourselves up for the first fortnight of April and that is what we can tell you because the thing has not given much more of itself”, added the union representative, who pointed out that at least she has observed “will ” to negotiate with the bosses.
The unions have come to the meeting for their part with a proposal spread for days. They demand wage increases of 5% in 2022, 4.5% in 2023 and 3.75% in 2024, plus a clause that would allow higher increases depending on prices and, as a novelty, also taking into account the situation of the sectors, a gesture to try to prevent employers from resisting negotiations.
CEOE sources limit themselves to stating that the meeting addressed “the scope and content of the V AENC”. “We will continue working and for this we will meet again in the first half of April,” they point out in the employers’ association. The leader of Cepyme, the employer of small and medium-sized companies, Gerardo Cuerva, had affirmed that the businessmen would attend the meeting with a proposal according to “the real situation” of the companies, but this has not finally materialized in an offer.
Months just to sit down to negotiate
The balance of the first meeting of the majority unions and employers reflects the lack of urgency of the employers in an imperious and key negotiation for the CCOO and UGT after a year of great loss of strong purchasing power of the workers in 2022 and, therefore, on the other hand, of expansion of the benefits of the companies.
The current context continues to be one of high prices, with inflation picking up again to a rate of 6.1% in February, while wages rise somewhat more than in previous months, but much less than prices. The salaries agreed in agreements increased by half, with an average rise of 2.9% until February.
The truth is that this meeting has taken months. CCOO and UGT have long been demanding that employers sit down again to negotiate the increase in wages, a step that has not been formally taken until March 22, although there have been informal conversations.
In the CEOE they have assured at all times that they are “always” willing to dialogue with the unions, but in practice the employers did not attend to the location of the unions. In 2022, even the leader of the CEOE, Antonio Garamendi, renounced this state tool of the AENC and called for business-to-business, sector-to-sector negotiations, ignoring the recommendations of all economic organizations, which urged large wage agreements to face the price escalation.
Next meeting after Easter
The next meeting is scheduled for after Easter, in the second half of April and, there, it is expected that the parties come with proposals to start the negotiation.
Although with pressure in numerous public statements, the majority unions are trying not to “give excuses” to the employers to abandon this state negotiation again, which they consider key to the recovery of the purchasing power of the majority of working people. Because, although some workforces are achieving higher increases, many times after conflicts such as in the metal sector, the CCOO and UGT warn that a “two-speed” negotiation is being installed where workers with less union strength and mobilization (already often more precarious) is becoming more impoverished in this crisis.
The majority unions insist on the “urgency” of increasing wages in the face of the great loss of purchasing power of Spanish households. CCOO and UGT warn that it is not only a question of “justice” and “distribution”, since inflation has been carried mainly on the shoulders of the workforce while companies have improved their margins, but it is also key to the country’s economy in order to boost domestic consumption.