Bargaining brings changes in pay structures

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In 1999, Spanish collective bargaining brought important changes in the area of pay structures, according to the social partners. Employers highlight the move away from seniority supplements, while the trade unions stress the reintroduction of wage revision clauses linked to inflation, and these are set to be key issues in bargaining in 2000.

In 1999, collective bargaining brought important changes in the area of pay structures, although these changes are still insufficient in the opinion of the social partners. Both the employers and the trade unions coincide in this assessment, although they have different views of the changes that have been made and establish different priorities for bargaining in 2000.

In the opinion of the CEOE employers' association , 1999's bargaining brought significant changes in the area of wage supplements, and especially in seniority supplements (complemento de antigüedad). According to a CEOE study of collective agreements negotiated up to November 1999, 10% of agreements abolished seniority supplements for newly recruited workers. This is a positive development in the opinion of CEOE, which has for some time been stating that seniority supplements are obsolete and that it wishes to abolish them. This was done in several different ways in 1999, the most common being: freezing the seniority supplements of workers who already received them; transforming them into individual supplements; and agreeing a formula for using the paybill that would have been devoted to seniority payments if they had not been abolished. CEOE also sees it as positive that 30% of the agreements examined froze the existing seniority supplement. However, the employers' association considers that a more thorough revision of the wage structure should be made, giving greater priority to wage supplements linked to attaining objectives. According to the CEOE study, fewer than 20% of agreements include supplements of this type, and the figure is far lower if only supplements directly linked to worker productivity are analysed. For CEOE, a central proposal in collective bargaining in 2000 will continue to be a revision of the way in which wages are calculated, in order to give greater importance to variable supplements linked to worker productivity and company performance.

The CC.OO and UGT trade union confederations, by contrast, stress the reintroduction of clauses on wage revision (cláusula de revisión salarial), which link pay rises to inflation. In the past few years, this type of clause had become less common due to the low inflation rate, but the unions seem them as essential in order to avoid the loss of purchasing power when real inflation is greater than the forecasts, as happened in 1999. Indeed, in 1999 forecast inflation was 1.8%, whereas real inflation reached 2.7% in November. According to the CEOE study, the average wage increase in 1999 was 2.3% (0.4 points below the real inflation rate) and a wage revision clause appeared in 64% of agreements. The trade unions consider that the presence of these clauses in agreements is positive, but that this is insufficient. In their opinion, the inflationary situation is seriously affecting wage earners and benefiting companies, which in the first quarter of 1999 achieved net profits which were equivalent to 30% of their gross value added and were largely responsible for the turnaround in inflation. The unions therefore consider that it is a serious mistake for the government and employers to continue demanding wage moderation, and in 2000's collective bargaining they will seek an average wage increase of 3% and the inclusion of wage revision clauses in all agreements.

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