Collective agreement renewed in banking sector

In June 2007, the social partners in the banking sector signed the twenty-first collective agreement for a duration of four years. The agreement provides for considerable wage improvements that tend to be cancelled out by pay practices adopted at company level. Overall, the trade unions welcome the agreement, while branch sections of the main banks are campaigning for the non-absorption of the pay rises defined in the agreement.

On 21 June 2007, the social partners in the banking sector signed the twenty-first collective agreement covering the country’s commercial banks. On the trade union side, the signatories of the agreement with the Spanish Banking Association (Asociación Española de Banca, AEB) included the following organisations: the Financial and Administrative Service Federation affiliated to the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Federación de Servicios Financieros y Administrativos de Comisiones Obreras, COMFIA-CC.OO), the National Service Federation of the General Workers’ Confederation (Federación Estatal de Servicios de la Unión General de Trabajadores, FES-UGT), the Federation of Banking Trade Unions, Stock Exchanges, Savings Banks, Credit and Insurance Entities and Offices affiliated to the General Confederation of Labour (Federación de Sindicatos de Banca, Bolsa, Ahorro, Entidades del Crédito, Seguros y Oficinas y Despachos de la Confederación General del Trabajo, FESIBAC-CGT) as a first-time signatory. The agreement covers the sector’s 111,719 workers and is valid for a four-year period.

Content of agreement

The main elements of the agreement include:

  • a pay rise of 2.75%, with a wage revision clause to adjust it to the retail price index (RPI) on 1 January 2008, and a 2% rise until 2010 with a wage revision clause allowing for back payments if the real RPI is greater than the agreed pay increase;
  • an extra quarter of a month’s salary a year as a productivity bonus to allow workers to share the banks’ profits;
  • improvements in promotion criteria, by lowering the seniority requirements for paying administrative workers the same salary as technical staff. This improvement benefits older workers who were promoted to the administrative category from the former subordinate categories; this category of workers has now almost disappeared and only represents about 3% of the sector’s workforce;
  • recognition of the seniority of workers as technical staff for the purposes of considering promotion. This is a benefit for younger workers who are contracted on work placements as technicians but subsequently join the workforce as administrative staff on open-ended employment contracts;
  • those aspects of gender equality and work-life balance that are defined in the law on gender equality (ES0704019I);
  • recognition and regulation of the right of trade unions to use email in their communications with workers.

Trade union views

The trade unions approve the agreement because it improves the purchasing power of workers, due to the pay rise of over 4% for 2008. It also ensures the maintenance of the workers’ purchasing power given the reintroduction of the wage revision clause, which the trade unions have been demanding since its removal from the agreement in 1992. However, these improvements in the sectoral agreement may be diluted in their application at company level because of the annualised pay policy applied by most Spanish banks. This involves the absorption of the statutory pay increases by the discretionary individual pay supplements that companies assign unilaterally to their employees. In practice, this means that many workers in the sector may receive pay rises below those set out in the sectoral agreement.

The application of this method of neutralising pay increases is an exclusive power of employers which provides management with a useful device for modulating wages on the basis of the productive and organisational needs of the company. Thus, it has become the main instrument for the individualisation of pay that tends to increase managerial privileges in the employment relationship.

The trade unions argue that all types of extra statutory payments, comprising both discretionary pay supplements and variable pay systems, should serve as an incentive for the workforce rather than replacing the provisions of the sectoral agreement. The trade union sections of the main banks are therefore organising campaigns demanding the non-absorption by banks of the pay rises defined in the sectoral agreement.

Despite these controversies, the signature of the agreement was supported by 90% of trade union representatives at the sectoral bargaining table.

Juan Arasanz Díaz, QUIT, University Autònoma of Barcelona (UAB)

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