Government dynamites social dialogue by giving priority to regional collective agreements

ERTESSpanish Ministry of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, in a meeting with trade unions’ respresentatives at the left and employers’ representatives at the right

The Government has inserted the priority of regional agreements that it promised the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) into the unemployment benefit decree. The CEOE employers’ association is the main party affected by the Executive’s concessions to the PNV.

The social partners are protesting against the approval of the change in the Workers’ Statute, which bows to nationalist demands that give primacy to regional agreements when they are more beneficial to the worker, over those of a national or sectoral nature. The employers’ anger is particularly intense considering that the measure dynamites the design of social dialogue as it has been in place since 2011 (even before the PP’s labour reform), in which employers’ organisations play a particularly important role, “in terms of the centralisation of decision-making power” over agreements at the level of the entire Spanish territory.

Trade unions and employers’ organisations coincide this week in criticising the way in which the reform of the Statute has been conducted, camouflaged among the changes that will be applied to unemployment benefits, without any mention in the press conference of the last Council of Ministers and which only became known when it was included in the Official State Gazette.

However, employers’ sources recall that these organisations have been protesting strongly against the possible shielding of regional agreements since 2021, when the last labour reform was finalised.

The very organisational structure of the CEOE, which is state-wide in scope, gives it great importance in ensuring that its decisions preserve “market unity on a national scale”, a capacity that the Government’s concession to the PNV (the only interlocutor with which it has negotiated) decisively undermines.

For this reason, the trade union organisations have called on the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, to convene a meeting with trade unions and employers to restore confidence in social dialogue after the unexpected approval of the prevalence of regional agreements over state agreements in the reform of unemployment benefits.

With the reform of the Workers’ Statute, nationalist parties such as the PNV, and even the ERC, have scored an important victory by paying the high price of transgressing the terms of the last labour reform and creating even greater unease in the CEOE, an organisation that both the Ministry of Labour and that of Social Security have allowed themselves to disregard in such important decisions as the latest increases in the Minimum Wage or the last part of the pension reform, presented last March.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.