Wages grow 2.2%, more than five points below inflation

A construction worker. / ARCHIVE

Only a quarter of the workers protected by agreement have a clause that protects them against price increases, something that the unions demand included in the new AENC

Lucia Palacios

Wages and prices walk increasingly distant paths in this year 2022. And this despite the fact that in these first two months the income of workers has risen significantly. Specifically, wages by agreement climbed to 2.26% on average, according to data published this Thursday by the Ministry of Labor. This is two tenths more than in January and almost eight tenths compared to the 1.47% that grew in 2021, but this rise is clearly insufficient in view of the fact that inflation is runaway and marks maximums of three decades ago: 7.4 % in February, according to the INE forecast.

This means that the workers are suffering in their pockets the consequences of the sharp rise in energy prices that has been recorded in recent months and that has now been aggravated by the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and they are losing so far this year more than five points of purchasing power.

That is why the unions demand a sharp rise in wages in the Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining (AENC) that they have already begun to negotiate with the employers so that in no case will the workers return to being the "pagans" of this new crisis, derived from the war and that is added to the one that had been dragging as a result of the pandemic. In the two meetings held, a figure has not yet been put on the table, since the UGT and CC OO defend that the figure will depend on a longer agreement being agreed, two or three years, in which it is guaranteed that there is no loss of purchasing power.

Thus, they are aware that the increase for this year cannot be the average CPI, since the forecast is that in the coming months the upward trend will continue and it will even shoot up to two-digit figures, but their position is to maintain a moderate position as long as employers agree to what is now their main demand: that the agreements recover the salary guarantee clause, which prevents workers from losing purchasing power at the end of the year or in a fixed period. In other words, the agreed increase would be revised to equal it to the prices in case they finally rise more.

This guarantee, which a little over a decade ago was customary to include in agreements to shield salaries, was lost in the previous economic crisis, to the point that currently only 16.3% of agreements, just 277 of the 1,694 accounted for until February, they have it. Thus, 1.2 million workers, of the almost 1.4 million who are covered by the agreements, are protected against price escalation, barely one in four.

However, the CEOE categorically rejects linking wages to inflation and warns that this would be "extremely dangerous." "If wages are raised based on inflation, what we will do is structure inflation and we will all lose," warns its president, Antonio Garamendi, who calls for "salary moderation" and invites to talk about issues such as productivity, competitiveness, absenteeism or training« in the new AENC that they intend to agree on for the coming years, since the previous one expired in 2020.

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