New collective agreement in tanning sector

Workers in Spain’s leather tanning sector have had to take strike action to persuade employers to complete collective agreement negotiations begun almost two years ago. After the talks, which began in January 2012, stalled yet again this summer, the unions called for four days of national strikes in the sector and scheduled them for November 2013. After two days of strikes, the employers’ organisation agreed to resume talks and further industrial action was cancelled.

Bargaining process

Negotiations to renew the sectoral collective agreement in Spain’s leather tanning sector began in January 2012. Almost two years later, agreement had still not been reached and negotiations were at a standstill.

The sectoral employers’ organisation, the Spanish Tanners’ Association (ACEXPIEL), wanted to reduce paid holiday, increase working time, set up a double wage scale and cut wages. The Federation of Industry and Farmer Workers, affiliated to the General Workers’ Union (FIGAG-UGT) and the Federation of Textile, Leather, Chemical and Sector Related Industries of the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (FITEQA-CCOO) rejected the proposals.

When agreement had still not been reached by the end of summer 2013, the unions called for four days of national strikes and scheduled them for 12, 14, 19 and 21 November. However, only the first two scheduled strikes, on 12 and 14 November, took place.

Widespread support for strikes

FITEQA-CCOO, in a notice on its website, Workers in the tanning industry, on strike for a decent agreement (in Spanish), said that 80% of workers in the sector took part in the first strike on 12 November 2013. The notice also drew attention to the fact that in the Murcia region in south-eastern Spain, companies in the sector had agreed to keep the previous collective agreement in force until a new one was concluded. The union said this showed that some employers disagreed with the stance of the employers’ organisation.

The second strike was held on 14 November. FITAG-UGT, in a news release (in Spanish) on its website, said it was supported by 95% of employees in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, and almost 100% of employees in Catalonia. No information is available concerning the level of participation in the remaining regions.

Shortly before the third strike, due to be held on 19 November, employers made a commitment to present new proposals.

In a further joint union press release (in Spanish), they said they would cancel the third strike and decide whether or not to call off the fourth depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

A pre-agreement was quickly reached with the employers’ organisation and was due to be signed on 25 November, the day after the fourth scheduled strike day.

Content of the agreement

The agreement resulted in a Statement of agreement on conventions in the tanning industry (in Spanish, 309 KB PDF). It sets out the following provisions for wage increases and for the negotiation of a new collective agreement.

Wages will increase by 0.3% in 2013, by 0.5% in 2014, and by 0.6% in 2016. Clauses in the previous collective agreement that allowed for index-linked pay rises in line with inflation will stay, but will not operate while the current agreement is in force.

Working time in the sector will be more flexible, with 10% of working time being distributed irregularly throughout the year to match surges and shortfall in production.

Bargaining parties will have two years, from 2013 to 2015, to negotiate the next collective agreement. Should employers and unions again not be able to agree, a clause has been added to the latest settlement which obliges the bargaining parties to seek arbitration and be bound by the arbitrator’s decision.

Pablo Sanz, NOTUS

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