Spain: Latest working life developments – Q1 2018

A new agreement regarding public sector employment, Spain’s first feminist general strike, and protests by pensioners are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Spain in the first quarter of 2018.

New agreement for public sector employees

In March 2018, after several months of negotiations, a new framework agreement for working conditions and employment in the public administration was signed between the finance minister and the most representative trade unions in the public sector: the Independent Trade Union Confederation of Public Servants (CSIF), the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) and the General Workers Union (UGT). This comes one year after an agreement was signed in March 2017 to reduce temporary employment in the public administration and increase permanent public employment.

The agreement establishes a minimum wage increase of 6.1% for public employees over the period 2018–2020 (1.75% in 2018, 2.25% in 2019 and 2% in 2020), and a maximum of 8.9% conditional upon growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and the fulfilment of the budget deficit target for 2020. It is the first time that wage increases for public employees will be linked to macroeconomic performance, with higher wage increases to be paid when GDP growth surpasses 2.5%. Moreover, the agreement means that collective bargaining in the public sector is restored after several years of unilateral regulation. However, social dialogue at regional and local levels remains conditional upon administrations meeting deficit objectives.

Millions take part in Spain’s first feminist general strike

On 8 March 2018, the first feminist general strike took place in Spain under the slogan ‘If we stop, the world stops’. The strike was organised by a series of feminist and civil society organisations, including trade unions, that called for different strike durations: CCOO and UGT announced two-hour walkouts; the Workers' Trade Union Confederation  (USO) announced a four-hour walkout; and the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) and General Confederation of Labour (CGT) called for a one-day strike. The objective of the strike was to denounce the discrimination experienced by women in society, including aspects such as gender violence and the unequal distribution of productive and reproductive tasks. In the labour market, the strike also denounced the persistence of several problems for women, including a high gender pay gap, low protection against unfair dismissals in the case of pregnancy, and the need to promote policies in order to achieve a more equal distribution of care tasks.

Adherence to the strike was very high according to trade unions, who estimated that 5.3 million workers took part. Participation was greater in large companies, and particularly high in the public education and healthcare sectors. In addition, massive demonstrations were held in most cities across Spain.

Pensioners demand pension hike in line with inflation

In February and March, pensioners organised a series of demonstrations following the announcement of a mere 0.25% increase in their pensions for 2018. In December 2013, the government had introduced a new pension revaluation index that separated the rise of pensions from developments in prices and linked it to the financial situation of the social security system. In 2015 and 2016, the consumer price index (CPI), which indicates inflation levels, remained below 0.25%. However, in 2017 it reached 2%, and the official forecast for 2018 estimates a rate of 1.5%. After experiencing a decline in purchasing power, pensioners decided to take action, calling for the government to increase pensions in line with inflation and urging public authorities to guarantee the funding and sustainability of the public pension system. The demonstrations were organised by the Platform for the Defence of Public Pensions and supported by trade unions. 

Commentary 

With the consolidation of the economic recovery, many of the groups that have suffered from the effects of austerity policies have started to demand improvements from the government. The Spanish government presented the agreement for public sector employees as a positive step to be replicated in the private sector, after negotiations for a new peak inter-sectoral collective agreement failed in 2017; according to the European Commission, there is evidence of private sector wages lagging behind productivity developments (PDF).

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