Entrepreneurs more generous than Government

Spanish trade unionsSpanish trade unions

Fernando González Urbaneja | Employers and unions have reached an income policy agreement on their own which is coherent with the previous ones signed during the last decades. There is no break in the social pact policy that accompanied Spanish democracy for decades. The agreement (a salary increase of 4% in 2023 and 3% in 2024) is indicative, a recommendation for decentralized collective bargaining, thousands of sector, province, company agreements… that each year occupy what we call social agents , trade union and employer representatives of all types and conditions.

Without an indicative national agreement, effective social negotiation in companies and sectors does not stop, but a national agreement of this type helps the negotiation by providing a frame of reference. In addition, the social agreement sends a signal to the citizens of serenity, that people can understand each other if they dialogue and know how to listen, give a little and meet the other side halfway. The agreement has surprised some, especially those who do not know the history of labour relations and the strength of the agreement as an alternative to conflict. It is one thing to speak in front of a microphone and another to sit down at the workplace every morning to carry out the task.

In the absence of knowing all the details of the recommendations document that the union and employer representatives will sign this week, what is substantially clear is that each party has given in their approaches to seek a common denomination. Regarding salaries, which is always a central issue in this negotiation, the agreement establishes a three-year path (2023-25) with slightly more generous salary increases than those set by the government for civil servants without union protest. The employers have accepted the partial update (up to one point) of the salary tables if inflation runs above the agreed salary increase. It is not the indication claimed by the unions, although it looks like it.

Some lament that the negotiation has not incorporated more modern and decisive concepts such as productivity or participation in the distribution of profits (and, where appropriate, losses). There are company agreements that contemplate these factors and that enjoy a good reputation among the signatories, which suggests that, sooner or later, these aspects will enter into collective bargaining. It is not easy, but the road is made by walking and at this moment it seems that the employers and unions are walking.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.