Yolanda Díaz tightens the rope with Garamendi at the gates of the salary battle with the unions

The new political course has started this Thursday with an extraordinary plenary session in Congress. On the horizon appears the tight electoral calendar for next year or the clouds that hang over the economy in the fall due to the energy crisis and runaway inflation. One of the future candidates in the appointment with the polls next year, Yolanda Díaz, entered the hemicycle, while in the background the bells of the beginning of the session sounded, launching a message to the leader of the bosses, CEOE, in front of the press. "I ask for your commitment to your country," assured the second vice president and minister of Labor.

Díaz thus hardened his tone against the leader of the employers' association, Antonio Garamendi. The reason was the lack of agreement, for which he points to the CEOE, so that in Spain there is a salary revaluation that cushions the loss of purchasing power due to the rise in prices. "I show my explicit support for the union mobilizations against the bosses," said the Minister of Labor in the Lower House. The unions have been announcing for months that, in the absence of an agreement with the CEOE, they would promote a calendar of protests against employers for the salary devaluation that produces, in practice, the rise in prices. "Garamendi knows very well what is happening and blocking the negotiation of collective agreements is not a good recipe for a country that needs not only that workers do not have a bad time but that they stop losing purchasing power," Diaz settled.

In the salary negotiation, in reality, the Government does not participate. The labor regulations mark that it is the employers and the unions who make up this table from which a general guideline must come out that is applied in the negotiations of the new agreements. In fact, Labor had remained on the sidelines even when the possibility that it could be a mediator between the parties was raised. “Neither the Government nor the Ministry is responsible for interfering,” Diaz's 'number two', Joaquín Pérez-Rey, said at the beginning of the summer. Although Labor defended the need to improve wages, he avoided taking a clear position in a negotiation that he considered "bilateral." Until this Thursday.

During the last two and a half years, Díaz and Garamendi have been involved in an intense coming and going in their relationship that, despite the distances, has concluded with numerous agreements at the negotiation table. labor reform, Rider Law or the numerous extensions of the ERTE during the pandemic have been some of the consensuses reached between the Ministry, the unions and the CEOE. Such was the harmony at certain times that the right came to mark distances with Garamendi for what was understood as a closeness to the postulates of the minister of United We Can. The high point of these discrepancies were the words of Garamendi endorsing the pardons for the independence leaders. The Basque businessman spoke of the "unfair" campaign that he had suffered after a few words that he later qualified.

The truth is that this relationship has not been exempt from confrontations, especially during the processes in which the negotiations stalled. However, Diaz had never so emphatically marked his distance from the leader of the bosses. "He would ask the CEOE to commit to his country," he emphasized in his brief intervention with the media in which he charged against Garamendi and the bosses.

Yolanda Díaz raises the tone in front of the bosses when there is a list of pending labor matters. The first of them is the salary revaluation, which has motivated the words of the vice president this Thursday in Congress. Labor does not participate in this negotiation, but has now shown its support for the mobilizations of the unions for this fall. CCOO and UGT, on the one hand, and CEOE and Cepyme, on the other, sat down to negotiate the state collective bargaining agreement (AENC), in a context in which it was included in the 'rent agreement' due to the effects of the war in Ukraine, but talks stalled in the spring with no prospect of an agreement. Now, the representatives of the workers will try to put pressure on the street to obtain a change in the salary policy of the companies.

The second point is the increase in the minimum wage, the SMI. Here yes, decision of the Government, but that submits to consultation to the social agents. The general secretary of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, came to defend a few days ago that the increase should be 10%, up to 1,100 euros. Yolanda Díaz has not advanced figures, although in the same speech at the entrance to Congress in which she charged against Garamendi, she assured that "we are going to raise the minimum wage and we are going to do it more than ever." Labor later clarified that it was not referring to the highest increase to date, but that there are more reasons to raise the SMI due to the loss of purchasing power caused by inflation. "Without any doubt we are going to raise it because we are in an exceptional moment," said Díaz, recalling that the table of the expert commission that traces the path of this scale will meet next week.

This is another of the issues that has broken in the past the negotiating table's ability to reach agreements due to the rejection of the bosses, always skeptical of this policy. In this case, the agreement with the parties is not mandatory to carry it out, although the Government has tried to negotiate with unions and the CEOE. In fact, the last increase, approved in February up to 1,000 euros, went ahead without the participation of the CEOE, which decided to disassociate itself from this agreement. During that negotiation, Díaz already showed a similar tone to the one that has been verified this Thursday. "I feel very sad, because this table could have been a mere consultation and, nevertheless, I wanted there to be social dialogue and there has been. But it is true that there is a part that has sat at that table without negotiating, that has said that he wants zero euros, and he leaves the table saying that he wants zero euros. That is not negotiating. I am going to try to reach an agreement with the largest number of interlocutors, "he said.

The third of the issues, of less political importance, is nevertheless one of the bets of the Ministry of Labor. It is about the status of the intern, a regulatory framework in which the aim is to curb the excesses that occur with interns. The objective of this regulation is to create a regulatory framework that allows granting rights, defining what a scholarship holder is or forcing a certain compensation of expenses. The Ministry had drawn up a plan that would have resolved the issue before the summer holidays, but discrepancies with the employers forced it to be postponed until the return of the summer break.

Finally, it should not be lost sight of the fact that both Díaz and Garamendi face different electoral appointments in the coming months. Díaz starts this new political course with an eye on 2023. During the last months she has reconciled her position as second vice president of the Government with the launch of its Sumar platform, with which he aspires to stand for election by bringing together the space to the left of the PSOE. However, the socialist turn to the left and the disagreements that are evident with Podemos when it comes to building that alternative are complicating the fit of the Díaz project on the board.

Garamendi, for his part, also has an electoral cycle ahead of him. The CEOE holds elections for the presidency this November, which means that the leader of the employers' association does not have the same room for maneuver in the negotiation that he has had to date. At the moment it has not been specified whether an alternative candidacy to his will finally take place, but the different internal disagreements that have been experienced within the employers' association during his mandate could complicate Garamendi's position in the pending negotiations with the government and unions.

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