New agreement improves working conditions in temporary employment agencies

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On 31 January 1997, the Second National Agreement on Temporary Employment Agencies was signed. This is the second agreement reached in this sector since the activity of temporary employment agencies (TEAs) in Spain was approved in 1994. It will remain in force until 31 December 1999.

On 31 January 1997, a new collective agreement was concluded to regulate employment relations between temporary employment agencies (Empresas de Trabajo Temporal, or ETT) and their employees. It was signed by the associations of temporary employment agencies, Geesta (Asociación Española de Empresas deTrabajo Temporal, or Spanish Association of Temporary Employment Agencies), UETT (Unión de Empresas de TrabajoTemporal, or Union of Temporary Employment Agencies) and ACETT (Asociación Catalana de Empresas de Trabajo Temporal, or Catalonian Association of Temporary Employment Agencies) and the trade unions CC.OO andUGT.

Despite the refusal of Fedett (Asociación de Empresas de Trabajo Temporal, or Association of Temporary Employment Agencies) to sign the agreement, this was the first time that there had been effective negotiations between the parties involved. The previous agreement had been signed only by CC.OO, UGT and Geesta.

According to figures provided by the Ministry of Employment, there are currently 408 TEA s in Spain, which handle 10% of all temporary contracts drawn up. Until now, the working conditions and wages of TEA employees had been laid down by the (previous) collective agreement that applied to temporary employment agencies, or, in its absence, by the agreement covering the user company. This led to inequality between workers, as the conditions of the TEA agreement were in general inferior to those applying to established or non-temporary workers employed by the user companies.

The new agreement provides for a gradual process of offering TEA employees the same conditions as those offered to established employees in the user company. From 1998, TEA employees must receive at least 80% of the salary laid down in the user-company agreement for comparable work, increasing to 100% by 2000. Furthermore, from 1998, TEA employees will be governed by the user-company agreement in areas such as job classification, functional mobility and working hours. Thus, the provisions established by the TEA agreement become minimum standards that are applicable both to the "structural" staff (the employees who work within TEAs) and the "mission" staff (TEA employees who provide their services to the user company).

Another step forward in the agreement is the setting up of a joint committee composed of representatives of the signatories to the agreement. This committee will be responsible mainly for interpreting and applying the agreement and for continually monitoring the activities of the sector. Funding of no more than 0.05% of the TEA wage bill is provided to allow the joint committee to carry out its duties. The strengthening of the role of collective bargaining is completed with the creation of a new set of bodies: the regional monitoring committees, which at a regional level will play the same role as the joint committee, excluding the interpretation of the agreement.

The signatories have taken a very positive view of this agreement, as it is an important step forward in improving working conditions in the sector. For the trade unions, the signing of the agreement was a negotiated solution to its main complaint about the regulation of TEAs in the 1994 labour reform which approved their activity. According to Paloma de la Riba, the UGT representative on the bargaining committee, the agreement is very positive because it will allow progress towards greater equality of rights between workers of temporary agencies and those of the user companies.

However, there is controversy amongst the employers' associations in the sector. The ACETT representative on the bargaining committee, Dolors Poblet, places special value on the fact that the agreement was negotiated by all the parties involved, because it represents a convergence of positions between trade unions and employers, and because it is a first step towards the unification of the employers' associations in the sector. However, the agreement does not enjoy the approval of all the employers' associations. Fedett- which represents the small and medium-sized enterprises in the sector - refused to sign the agreement, because it felt that it threatened the survival of small enterprises due to the significant increase in staffing costs.

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