Spain: Milestone agreement in retail sector

An agreement between social partners in the Spanish retail sector will govern working and employment conditions for the next three years. About 260,000 employees are expected to benefit from this agreement, which is likely to set the standards for other sector agreements due to be negotiated during 2017.

Background

The social partners in the retail sector signed a collective agreement (PDF) on 27 April 2017, which will cover chain stores and big distributors and will be valid until 2020. The signatories were:

  • the National Association of Large Distribution Companies (ANGED);
  • the Federation of Independent Trade Workers (Fetico);
  • the Federation of Trade Union Associations (Fasga);
  • the General Workers’ Union (UGT);
  • the Workers Commissions (CCOO).

It is the first time that ANGED has been able to reach an agreement with all the representative trade unions (the previous agreement was signed only by Fetico and Fasga).

ANGED represents the interests of larger companies in the retail chain and big distribution sector. Membership is open to retailers who have department stores, hypermarkets or large specialised superstores with a total sales floor space of no less than 30,000m2.

Members of ANGED include some flagship sector companies, such as El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, Eroski, Group Auchan-Alcampo, FNAC, C&A, Leroy Merlin and IKEA. They employ a total of 260,000 workers, approximately 2.1% of the total number of private sector employees in Spain and 11.7% of the total number of employees in the Spanish commerce sector.

However, the agreement does not cover supermarket workers (PDF) (unless explicitly stated), since supermarkets with a sales floor area of more than 2,500 m2 have their own collective bargaining domain.

The sector’s previous collective agreement was signed on 8 April 2013 and was in force between 2013 and 2016, during a period of economic crisis. Some of its major elements included a wage freeze, as well as working on Sundays and during holidays without extra pay in exchange for maintaining employment levels.

It is important to stress that the new collective agreement has been signed without any reference to a general framework agreement between the social partners. Indeed, the Third agreement on employment and collective bargaining (PDF), signed on 15 June 2015, and which established non-mandatory guidelines for collective agreements signed during 2015–2017, has not yet been renewed. This is partly because of the differing proposals for salary increases among the social partners. The new agreement is likely to become a benchmark for negotiation processes related to other sectoral collective agreements, particularly because of the sector’s importance in terms of the number of employees it covers.

Main contents of the agreement

The new agreement introduces a number of improvements and changes to the terms of the previous one. There is a 2.5% increase in salary levels for 2017, as well as a 1% annual fixed increase for 2018, 2019 and 2020. The agreement also sets out a consolidated variable salary increase for these three years, ranging from 0.25% to 2% (based on an index for retail trade in superstores produced by the Spanish Institute of Statistics) as well as a non-consolidated variable increase (from 0.20% to 2%) depending on the sector’s sales figures.

The agreement also includes both a seniority supplement as well as an additional payment for overtime. All these elements represent a significant step forward in comparison to the salary freezes agreed in the previous collective agreement. Interestingly, these negotiated salary conditions also represent a significant improvement to the salary terms negotiated in other collective agreements. According to provisional data provided by the Spanish Ministry of Employment, the average negotiated salary increase (PDF) in collective agreements in 2016 was 1.06%, and from January–March 2017 the increase was 1.26%.

The collective agreement provides for a total annual working time of 1,770 hours from 1 January 2018. This is 28 hours fewer than the annual working time agreed in previous years, but this will not affect salary levels. The agreement also introduces several changes for part-time workers, allowing them to work more hours or have more working days by means of several ad hoc systems including complementary hour formulas. Important changes have also been introduced for work on Sundays and public holidays (festivos). The new agreement sets out that employees will be obliged to work only 34% of the total number of Sundays and public holidays per year (in comparison with 70% in the previous agreement), with a minimum of seven a year (nine in the previous agreement).

The new collective agreement also includes a number of social clauses that did not exist in the previous one, intended to improve employees’ work–life balance. The right for workers to take unpaid leave for the care of seriously ill close relatives has been introduced (from 1 to 30 days per year and these workers’ jobs are kept open for them). The provisions that guarantee workers their full wage when they are temporarily disabled due to work-related accidents and illness have been extended to cover periods of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and dialysis treatments.

Negotiation process

The first meeting about the new agreement was on 2 February 2017 when the date for negotiations to begin was scheduled for 14 February. In the beginning, the social partners’ positions were very far apart. Unions demanded a wage increase of 3%, a reduction of 28 hours in annual working time and a reduction in the number of Sundays and public holidays employees could be obliged to work.

ANGED’s proposals included an increase of only 1.25% in salary levels. In March, the unions walked out of the negotiations, saying that ANGED would not change its position on salary conditions. ANGED then offered better salary conditions and a progressive reduction of working hours, among other concessions, and the social partners’ positions began to converge at the beginning of April, with the agreement being signed on 27 April.

Commentary

This agreement represents a very important milestone in the current social dialogue in Spain. It is one of the first important collective agreements signed in Spain in 2017 in terms of the number of employees covered, and it has been signed despite no framework guidelines for social dialogue having yet been agreed between the main Spanish social partners. It is also likely to set new standards for negotiations in other sectors, particularly in terms of salary increases and working time reductions, in a time of rapid economic recovery and employment creation that contrasts with the crisis of previous years.

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