Agreement at Caja Madrid for afternoon opening and job creation

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A recent dispute and subsequent agreement in May 1997 between Caja Madrid, an important savings bank, and the trade unions is an important reference point for the current debate on working hours and employment in the Spanish banking sector.

The dispute at Caja Madrid (which has a workforce of 11,000) arose because of the bank's original objective of introducing new afternoon opening hours, extending overall hours from 8.00 to 20.30 on weekdays, and from 10.00 to 15.00 on Saturdays. Initially, it intended to open 20 branches located in very busy areas, including airports, railway stations, shopping centres and hospitals. The trade unions were radically opposed to the bank's plan for various reasons. They thought that only 14 branches fulfilled the requirements for opening in the afternoon laid down in the sectoral collective agreement, so that the plan was seen as arbitrary and in contravention of the agreement. The unions were also affronted since it was a unilateral decision by the bank, which had not even submitted the proposal to the works council but had just informed each worker directly by individual letter.

After a fortnight of mobilisation and negotiations, the trade unions - CC.OO (Confederation of Workers' Commissions), UGT (General Workers' Confederation), CSI (Independent Union Confederation) and Confederación de Cuadros (Middle Management Confederation) - and Caja Madrid reached an agreement on 23 May 1997. The unions have finally accepted the new opening hours for 16 branches, with the possibility of a maximum of 20 branches that meet the criteria of the collective agreement, subject to union approval. In exchange for this agreement, the unions have obtained several benefits: the creation of 60 new jobs in the branches that open in the afternoon; the conversion of 28 temporary contracts into permanent contracts; an increase in the fixed and variable salary of the managers and assistant managers of these branches; and reduced interest rates on loans to employees (a benefit that the workers had been demanding for a long time).

The unions have asked Caja Madrid not to introduce the new opening hours in other branches until this last point has been negotiated in the collective agreement next year. However, the management of the bank has stated that it will continue with the plan of introducing the new opening hours in 100 branches, since it involves improving services to customers, reinforces the competitive position of the bank and creates jobs.

The plan of Caja Madrid is not an isolated case. Other banks, such as Bilbao-Vizcaya, Kutxa, Caja Pamplona and Caja Laboral already open in the afternoon in some branches. It is an important initiative for the employers' association in the sector, CARL (Cajas de Ahorro para las Relaciones Laborales, Association of Savings Banks for Labour Relations), which is prepared to introduce afternoon opening hours for a certain percentage of branches into the next collective agreement.

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