Garamendi faces his re-election in the CEOE under the magnifying glass of critical businessmen

The president of the CEOE, Antonio Garamendi. / efe / villar lopez

The president of the employers' association has majority support, although a certain vote of punishment for his assignments is expected

Lucia Palacios

When Antonio Garamendi announced to the CEOE board of directors last September that he was going to run for re-election in the elections to be held on November 23, there was a deathly silence.

There was no applause or booing, no support or rejection. It was a prelude to the fact that the race towards his second term at the head of Spanish businessmen was not going to be as sweet as expected and the discontent that had grown in crescendo in recent months was going to cloud an election that was seen as a mere formality. to get his position revalidated by acclamation.

Alternative candidate

From that moment on, the critical sector, commanded by the Catalan employers' association, began to move in search of an alternative candidate who would stand up to the current leader. On the table there are such important issues to resolve as the salary increase –including the minimum wage–, social contributions and European funds. But the attempts were unsuccessful.

The two names that sounded the most, the president of Cepyme, Gerardo Cuerva, and that of the Madrid employers' association CEIM, Miguel Garrido, stood out and quickly issued two separate statements of support for the current president. The president of Faconauto, Gerardo Pérez, announced that he was considering running, but finally gave up.

When no one thought there was going to be another rival, an unknown Virginia Guinda, one of the many vice presidents of the Catalan employers' association, stepped forward and proclaimed herself a surprise candidate.

victory almost assured

Nobody in the CEOE thinks that the Catalan businesswoman is going to win, but her criticisms and the staging of the climate of internal division that exists in a part of the employers' association can erode Garamendi to a certain extent.

The thermometer of malaise will be measured with the votes that Guinda concentrates – at the moment it has tied up a little more than 50 of the nearly 800 that are disputed – and the blank vote that is being promoted in a certain sector.

The vast majority of organizations have given Garamendi their official support: all the territorial ones except Catalonia, Cepyme, ATA, sectors as relevant as metal, hoteliers, insurance, private health, construction, car dealers... Even the employers' association Anfac, which was very critical of the CEOE's support for the labor reform, offered its support last Thursday.

punishment vote

However, the support of an organization does not mean that its members will vote in favour. There is no voting discipline, the paper that goes to the polls is secret and Guinda assures that he is "stealing" a lot of support from Garamendi.

"The operation is not for Guinda to win the elections, but for the punishment vote against Garamendi to be higher," says a member of the CEOE executive. What they do hope is that it will serve to curb Garamendi's desire to change the statutes in order to run for a third term.

Causes of discomfort

The great criticism that is made of Garamendi, in addition to a certain lack of transparency, is that "absolutely everything is signed", that is, that they are making constant concessions to the Government without taking into account the interests of the companies, according to a source. to this newspaper. The support for the labor reform raised blisters, but what they consider "unforgivable" was signing at the beginning of the legislature the increase in the minimum wage to 950 euros. "It is making an agreement with a communist government," they denounce.

salary increases

Precisely this will be one of the first issues on the table whoever is elected president: the new increase in the minimum wage for 2023. However, except for surprise, on this occasion it is assumed that the CEOE will not support a new rise, which could foreseeably range between 1,050 and 1,100 euros.

It will be more likely to unblock collective bargaining and close a new agreement with the unions that sets the wage increase for workers for the coming years. An increase between 3% and 5% could be agreed and review clauses accepted with "moderate" inflation, so that 100% of the CPI deviation is not compensated and more time is allowed to recover it, explains a member of the CEO

European pensions and funds

Nor is the employer's yes to the second phase of the pension reform, which will be approved before the end of the year, expected. Employers refuse any increase in contributions, while the Government plans to raise the contributions of workers who earn the most by 30%. And it remains to be seen if they will support the statute for scholarship holders.

The other two big challenges that lie ahead are getting out of this price crisis and managing European funds and being able to reach companies, mainly SMEs.