Unions demand wage increases on May Day

The general secretary of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, and the general secretary of the CCOO, Unai Sordo, at the 2021 Labor Day demonstration. / europe press

They warn companies of a "social tinderbox" if they do not act to prevent the loss of purchasing power of workers

Clara Dawn

Under the slogan 'The solution: raise wages, contain prices, more equality', the unions return this May Day to the streets of more than 60 Spanish cities in a unique celebration for being the first without restrictions since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The unions arrive on this Labor Day, moreover, reinforced after having made notable progress in the last year with the agreements to reform the labor market, the increase in the Interprofessional Minimum Wage (SMI) and the updating of pensions with the CPI.

A huge leap that has significantly improved the relationship and climate with the Government, although not so much with businessmen, to whom a large part of the demands of the day are directed, which in Madrid will have the presence for the second consecutive year of the Labor Minister, Yolanda Díaz, in addition to the general secretary of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, and the general secretary of the CCOO, Unai Sordo. The event is also attended by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, as well as the Secretary of State for Employment and Social Economy, Joaquín Pérez Rey.

For his part, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, also wanted to make a statement to celebrate the day through his official Twitter account, assuring that "protecting labor rights, guaranteeing the best working conditions, equality between men and women or promoting training for employment. We have been working on this since the beginning of the legislature, with social dialogue and fair public policies. We move forward."

The warning is clear. In the manifesto that will accompany the marches to be held starting at noon, CC OO and UGT make it clear that "it is important to develop collective bargaining" that stops the dynamics of loss of purchasing power of wages, "to prevent a social tinderbox is generated and put the economic recovery at risk.

The unions rearm with the labor reform but avoid mobilizations

With inflation skyrocketing to 8.4% in April, according to data released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the call for an income pact between employers and unions has been a constant in recent weeks. But the representatives of the workers assume that this agreement with the CEO is almost impossible under current conditions.

In the manifesto of the day, CC OO and UGT defend that "the workers and the collective bargaining have not contributed to the rise in inflation, but rather corresponds to the rise in business prices to rebuild their profit margins" .

They consider that "it is essential to guarantee the purchasing power of households, especially those with fewer resources." And that is why they call "the increases in the SMI and pensions referenced to the increase in the cost of living."

At this point, they point directly to the bosses commanded by Antonio Garamendi, assuring that «UGT AND CCOO have tried to negotiate the V Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining, and we will not stop achieving it, with salary formulas that guarantee the maintenance of the power of buy".

Review formulas that, in his opinion, "do not differ from what the employers themselves claim for themselves in the administrative concession contracts."

The unions insist on this point in their claim to include wage review clauses in collective agreements that prevent the loss of purchasing power in the face of runaway inflation. have become one of the main sources of friction in the negotiations with the CEOE, with other organizations such as the Bank of Spain supporting the employers' association by ensuring that this type of formula -which serves to shield salaries against rise in the CPI and guarantee the purchasing power of payrolls - could pose a serious risk in the medium term for the good performance of the labor market.

In a recent report, the body commanded by Pablo Hernández de Cos points out that the percentage of agreements signed with these safeguard clauses for 2022 has shown a considerable increase in the first two months of this year, "up to almost 30% of workers with a registered agreement, after having fallen below 20% in recent years. And the percentage reaches 50% if the agreements already agreed for 2023 are taken into account, according to the data handled by the institution.

The figure is, however, less than the 70% that this type of armor represented in the agreements prior to the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis. But the recent increase worries the supervisory body given the risk of a spiral of wage-price increases with deleterious effects on activity.

Support for government measures

Faced with the criticism leveled at the business sector, the Labor Day manifesto for this 2022 is much more benevolent than other years with the Government. The agreements reached in terms of pensions or the labor market have calmed down the relationship between the parties, and the CCOO and UGT positively value the steps taken with the labor reform in terms of reinforcing collective bargaining "recovering the ultra-activity of the collective agreements, the application prevalence of the sectoral agreement against the company agreement and guaranteeing the application agreement in contracts and subcontractors».

“Above all, it is a reform that establishes very important changes in the labor model, betting on the maintenance and stability of employment, as opposed to the previous model of labor instability and the adjustment of the labor market focused on dismissals and abuse of employment. temporary hiring », reads the manifesto for this May Day.

The two main unions in the country are also convinced that these reforms will contribute to improving the quality of employment, "at a rate not known before the growth of the indefinite contract, placing it at the center of labor relations in our country".

After the pact for the reform of the labor market, the unions now set themselves the challenge of "a review of the causes and costs of dismissal to prevent it from being used as a means of adjustment, resorting, on the contrary, to the adjustment mechanisms internal document that contains the agreement reached within the social dialogue”.

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