Current trend towards company-level bargaining

In the past few years, collective bargaining has changed significantly in terms of the level at which agreements are reached. Moreover, the working time and pay clauses of these agreements have also been adjusted to reflect the country’s changing economy. It is within this changing context that the most representative trade unions and employer organisations have reached a new agreement on collective bargaining for 2007, which sets out the framework for negotiations between the social partners for the fifth consecutive year.

Collective bargaining in 2006

Based on information from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MTAS), the social partners have analysed data on collective bargaining in 2006. During that year, some 4,161 collective agreements were reached, covering 8,448,000 workers (Table 1).

Table 1: Collective bargaining in Spain, 2000-2006
Collective bargaining in Spain, 2000-2006
  Number of agreements Workers affected (in 000s)
Total Companylevel Other level Total Companylevel Other level
2000 5,252 3,849 1,403 9,230 1,083 8,147
2001 5,421 4,021 1,400 9,496 1,040 8,457
2002 5,462 4,086 1,376 9,697 1,026 8,671
2003 5,522 4,147 1,375 9,995 1,074 8,921
2004 5,474 4,093 1,381 10,194 1,015 9,179
2005 5,531 4,164 1,367 10,416 1,055 9,367
2006 4,161 3,141 1,020 8,448 930 7,519

Source: MTAS, 2006

Collective agreements

In 2006, some 3,141 agreements were negotiated at company level and 1,020 agreements were reached at other levels, including the sectoral, provincial and national level. Overall, the trend since 2000 indicates the increasing importance of bargaining at company level, while agreements at other levels are on the decline. Some experts refer to this development as a ‘coordinated decentralisation’, by which negotiating elements are transferred to the company level in coordination with the sectoral agreement (ES0603029I).

All in all, company-level agreements covered 930,000 workers, whereas those at higher levels (particularly sectoral agreements) affected as many as 7,519,000 workers. Sectoral agreements thus still play a central role, even though certain elements are dealt with in greater detail at company level.

Pay developments

The average agreed pay increase in 2006 - after incorporating the wage revision in line with real inflation - was 3.23%; this represented the lowest increase since 1999 (Table 2). The difference is particularly significant at company level, where the increase was 2.81%, while at other levels it amounted to 3.29%. In comparison, the Retail Price Index (RPI) increased by 3.6% in 2006.

Table 2: Pay and working time in Spain, 2000-2006
Pay and working time in Spain, 2000-2006
  Pay increase (%) Retail Price Index (RPI) Agreed working time (hours)
Total Companylevel Other level Annual Absolute variation
2000 3.72% 3.49% 3.76% 3.4% 1,761.3 -3.7
2001 3.68% 3.12% 3.75% 3.6% 1,758.7 -2.6
2002 3.85% 3.62% 3.88% 3.5% 1,756.3 -2.4
2003 3.68% 2.94% 3.77% 3.0% 1,752.9 -3.4
2004 3.60% 3.14% 3.65% 3.0% 1,752.5 -0.4
2005 4.03% 3.37% 4.10% 3.4% 1,751.6 -0.9
2006 3.23% 2.81% 3.29% 3.6% 1,755.9 4.3

Source: MTAS, 2006

Working time trends

Between 2000 and 2005, the agreed annual working time showed a gradual decrease, but the figures for 2006 showed a slight but significant rise to 1,755.9 hours for that year. This 4.3 hour increase from 2005 to 2006 brought the working time level back to approximately the level of 2002.

Agreement on Collective Bargaining 2007

On 6 February 2007, the Agreement on Collective Bargaining (Acuerdo para la Negociación Colectiva, ANC) for 2007 was signed by three key social partners: the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO), the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) and the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, CEOE). This pact is an annual agreement that sets out the framework for the bargaining of collective agreements at all levels (ES0503204F, ES0602101N). The representatives of the employer organisations and the most representative trade unions have signed the agreement for the fifth consecutive year (ES0201207F), which shows - as the signatories declared - the good climate of understanding between employers and majority trade unions.

The 2007 ANC establishes pay increases of 3%, thus maintaining the wage moderation of the past years. The role played by this agreement as a tool for combating inflation and stimulating the economy is specifically stated in the text (ES0701029I). Another objective set by the ANC is to foster job creation, particularly through open-ended employment contracts. This aim is in line with the objectives of the Agreement for the Improvement of Growth and Employment (ES0605019I), and subsidises employers for recruitment based on open-ended contracts.

Martí Lopez, QUIT, University Autònoma of Barcelona (UAB)

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