The 2nd Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining 2012-2014, signed on 25 January by the general secretaries of CCOO and UGT and the presidents of the CEOE and CEPYME employers' associations, is an exercise in responsibility and commitment on the part of the social agents to the creation and maintenance of employment at a particularly serious time that is clearly reflected in the high rates of unemployment.
The 2nd Confederal Agreement, which was backed by a very large majority of the CCOO Confederal Council, defines the conditions for collective bargaining in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and focuses on four matters of special relevance - wages, the structure of collective bargaining, internal flexibility and non-applicability.
Just one week before, in the social dialogue meetings, an agreement was reached on autonomous conflict resolution, training for employment, mutual benefit societies, distribution of non-working days, early retirements and redundancy schemes.
This negotiation, its content and its results must be seen in the present context, that is, a worsening of the crisis and yet another recession, which will bring us to over five and a half million unemployed; continuation of adjustment policies which are not only socially unfair but help worsen the situation; cultural, political and institutional hegemony of the right wing which has been authorised by voters to adopt an economic, social and labour programme that goes against trade union demands.
CCOO's strategy and actions focus on employment. We want to prevent continued job destruction and promote conditions for job creation; to defend protection networks, services and quality public-sector employment as factors for cohesion; to validate the trade union's capacity for facilitating dialogue and social consensus.
The employers' associations proposed freezing wages, as has already been done with public-sector workers and the minimum wage, eliminating revision clauses, achieving total freedom to change working conditions and not apply collective agreements and promoting the individualisation of industrial relations by focusing on company agreements rather than sector agreements.
Moderate growth in wages, with a revision clause, and an appeal to moderate growth in profits and profit reinvestment, control of company executive wages and price control. Also, strengthening of collective bargaining based on sector agreements and autonomy of the parties to establish the minimum areas for negotiation and the use of internal flexibility and non-applicability, providing it is justified and monitored by the trade unions, in order to promote job stability.
It has been agreed to moderate income (both wages and profits distributed by companies, as well as remuneration for senior management). Wage rises should not exceed 0.5% in 2012 or 0.6% in 2013. At the end of each financial year, wage revision clauses may be adopted taking into account rises in the consumer price index in relation to the European Central Bank's inflation target.
In 2014, wages should be adjusted to the rate of activity so, if growth in GDP in 2013 is lower than 1%, then the wage increase may not exceed 0.6%. If GDP is between 1 and 2%, the wage rise may not be more than 1%, and if GDP in 2013 grows by 2% or more, the wage increase may not exceed 1.5%.
Moreover, agreements shall include additional wage revision clauses based on movements in economic markers associated with companies' progress.
Nationwide collective agreements should follow the rules regarding the structure of collective bargaining. The agreement states that sector agreements should be the basis in companies for negotiating working hours, functions and wages. It is also necessary to retain provincial agreements. Being closer to companies, they can promote the flexibility companies need.
The agreement includes measures for internal flexibility (working hours, functional mobility and wages), distinguishing between ordinary flexibility and 'extraordinary temporary' flexibility. These measures must go together with guarantees and security for workers, allowing them to make their working time compatible with their family life.
Employers are required to inform workers' representatives of such changes immediately. If there is a disagreement, the Joint Commission will intervene including, if necessary, mediation and arbitration services.
Wage structures should include variable supplements so that a percentage of the wage will depend on the company's situation and results.
In order to maintain employment and avoid redundancies, it is considered advisable to include in the agreement clauses for temporary non-application which might affect the number and distribution of working hours, the shift system, the remuneration system, the working and performance system and functions. The sector agreement must determine the causes leading companies to not apply agreements, in line with objective parameters. In view of the exceptional nature of this measure, its duration may not be longer than the validity of the non-applied agreement or three years.
Internal flexibility in working hours and functional mobility aim to prevent employers from adopting workforce adjustments and redundancies as the first resort. Wage moderation and the appeals for moderating profits and high wages and controlling prices should help our products gain in competitiveness in the domestic and international markets.
This agreement strengthens collective bargaining and the contractual power of trade unions, avoiding the individualisation of labour relations. It gives the parties greater autonomy for establishing the most appropriate structure for the sector, after first establishing the clear prevalence of sector agreements over company agreements.
The role of workers' representatives and of trade union organisations is enhanced by promoting our presence in companies and with the attribution of new competencies to the joint commissions covered by sector agreements.
It is well-known that some employers would prefer the negotiation to fail so that they do not have to give up their demands, while waiting for the Government to legislate in their favour.
In order to take up all the possibilities of this agreement for the generation of jobs we should adopt an offensive position with regard to employers and the Government in the control of profits and of the prices of basic products.
We should also increase our organisational capacity in order to be present in all sectors and companies while achieving the great social convergence in defence of public services to which we are committed.
Briefing document (1,200 words) issued 12 Feb 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-20617-f0.cfm
printed 19 June 2013 at 23:10 hrs by 22.214.171.124