Tripartite employment plan signed in Galicia

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In July 1998, the employers' associations, trade unions and autonomous government of Galicia signed a set of "agreements on measures for growth and employment in Galicia 1998-2001", also known as the "Galician Employment Plan". This is the first example of such tripartite social concertation in this Spanish autonomous community.

The "agreements on measures for growth and employment in Galicia 1998-2001" (Los Acuerdos sobre medidas para el crecimiento y el empleo en Galicia 1998-2001), also known as the Galician Employment Plan (Plan de Empleo en Galicia), were signed on 13 July 1998. A number of social partners and representatives of the Xunta of Galicia (the autonomous government) participated in their negotiation, and they represent the first attempt to reach a tripartite social agreement in this autonomous community. The goal is to fight unemployment and increase the quality of employment.

Economic structure and labour market in Galicia

The Autonomous Community of Galicia, located in north-west Spain, is a region with little industry, which adopted the features of modern society far later than the rest of the country.

This background allows us to understand Galicia's restricted labour market and the low relative importance of the wage-earning population. Increasing unemployment over the last 20 years, the excessive use of temporary employment and the low vocational orientation of education are three features that are common to the rest of Spain but take on a different meaning in Galicia. Though 20.4% of the working population (EPA labour force survey, 1998) are still employed in the primary sector (farming, fishing, mining), the fall in employment in this sector has been only partially compensated by the increase in employment in the other sectors. Employment in the industrial sector (17.1% of total employment), which was severely hit by the two most recent economic crises, is currently growing faster than in the service sector, which at the beginning of 1998 represented 51.9%. The remaining 10.6% of the workforce work in construction.

In the first quarter of 1997, the unemployment rate in Galicia was 19%. It decreased slightly in the first quarter of 1998 but is still amongst the highest in the European Union. Unemployment is particularly serious amongst young people, especially young women. Long-term unemployment affects 60% of unemployed people, and almost 33% of the working population are on temporary contracts.

Negotiation process and main points of the Agreements

The agreements signed by the Confederation of Employers of Galicia (Confederación de Empresarios de Galicia,CEG), the national CC.OO trade union confederation, the Galician regional organisation of UGT and the autonomous government of Galicia resulted from talks begun in November 1997 in the forum of the Economic and Social Council of Galicia. The Galician Trade Union Confederation (Confederación Intersindical Gallega), however, declined to take part in the negotiating process.

The background to the Galician Employment Plan include the outcomes of the European Council Employment Summit in Luxembourg in 1997 (EU9711168F) Luxembourg agreements in 1997 and the Spanish intersectoral agreement of April 1997 (ES9706211F), which led to a series of reforms of the labour market aimed mainly at reducing the cost of dismissal of workers on permanent contracts and providing incentives for transforming temporary contracts into permanent ones. Many of the measures adopted in the Plan try to complement these measures. Other points fall within the scope of initiatives for developing the responsibility for managing vocational training and employment services, which have been transferred from the state administration to the autonomous community (ES9706112F).

The process was long, complex and sometimes conflictual. Some topics were left open for later meetings. No consensus was obtained on regulating working time and reducing overtime. The round of negotiations on these issues that began after the signing of the Plan was definitively broken off after two months. Moreover, some of the topics require time, such as creating a register of "employment locations" (yacimientos de empleo) and setting up sectoral commissions to study the potential for collaboration amongst companies and inter-company relations.

Active employment policies

A first annex to the agreements covers active employment policies. Over the period that they are in force (1998-2001), it is projected that 295,293 people will benefit from the framework of active employment policies, which can be divided into a) those aimed at supply and b) those aimed at demand.

  1. Supply. In the area of vocational training, it is intended each year to offer initiatives affecting at least 20% of unemployed people. Stress is placed on the need - so often stated but so seldom satisfied - to foster the coordination of regulated training, both occupational and continuing, and to rationalise action in this field by means of a more efficient use of resources. In order to provide information and advice for this activity, it was decided to set up in Galicia a Vocational Training Council (Consejo de Formación Profesional) and a Galician Institute for Qualifications (Instituto Gallego de Cualificación), which will provide technical support. The agreements also define the powers of the Galician Public Employment Service (Servicio Público Gallego de Empleo), which assumes responsibilities transferred from the National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de Empleo, INEM) - linked to the state administration - and provides guidance to unemployed people in the process of integration through an integrated network of employment offices which offer information on the rest of Spain and the EU.
  2. Demand. Here the aim is to provide incentives to recruit unemployed people on permanent contracts or to transform temporary contracts into permanent ones. In addition to the subsidies that were established as a result of the 1997 national intersectoral agreement, subsidies of ESP 300,000 are provided for full-time permanent contracts given to unemployed people or to people on temporary contracts. A further ESP 700,000 is available for certain cases, such as unemployed women recruited in sectors in which they are underrepresented, unemployed people under the age of 30 and the long-term unemployed. These groups may also receive subsidies for creating jobs through cooperatives.

Finally, in line with the recommendations of the European Commission, the agreements include a commitment to create a register of new "employment locations" before the approval of the budgets of the Xunta of Galicia for 2000.

Regulation of working time

A second annex relates to agreements on the regulation of working time and job creation. The Xunta urged the trade unions and employers' organisation to start negotiations and reach an agreement within two months on the incentives for stimulating recruitment of new workers through the reduction in working time and overtime, based on collective bargaining. If no agreement were reached - as in fact happened - the Xunta would establish a system of incentives that would ensure the voluntary participation of the social partners.

Training in prevention and risks

A third annex focuses on training in risk prevention. It was agreed to design a system of flexible training on occupational risks for health and safety delegates and company technicians. An amount was assigned to this in the budget of the Xunta and priority was given to courses organised by the signatory organisations and to training in sectors of greatest risk.

Horizontal and sectoral policies to stimulate business

A fourth annex deals with different types of financial aid for setting up new companies and helping companies in difficulties that are considered strategic for Galicia. In a fifth annex, it was decided to create several commissions to study suitable policies for consolidating "industrial complexes", stimulating inter-company cooperation and analysing employment alternatives for the crisis-ridden agricultural sector.

Commentary

Many of the agreed measures are a continuation of previous policies whilst others introduce new elements. Some of them reinforce the measures of the labour market reform stemming from the intersectoral agreement of 1997 by attempting to reduce temporary employment and to favour job creation, whilst others are aimed at applying and developing the powers transferred to the autonomous community.

The most important areas which have been marked by failure are the policy of stimulating job creation by reducing overtime and the incentives for part-time employment. The trade unions consider that the latter are incentives for "abusive practices".

The initiatives for training in health and safety at work are a particularly positive step, due to the lack of a managerial culture in this field, an essential requirement for improving quality of life at work.

Another positive aspect is the presence of the trade unions and employers' organisations in the institutions that have been set up. These include the commissions for the consolidation of industrial complexes and for promoting inter-company cooperation, and in the monitoring commissions for the agreements. Both parties seem to be involved not only in the area of labour relations, training and employment policies, but also in the consolidation of the economic structure of Galicia. (Roberto Herranz, University of Santiago de Compostela)

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