Spain: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

The new government appointed in June 2018 has given new momentum to social dialogue, with the launching of several tripartite tables for negotiation and the signature of a Plan for Decent Work. An important element of this plan consists in strengthening the Labour Inspectorate, that trade unions attach a key role in fighting the increase in occupational accidents. The commitment of the new executive with social dialogue is well reflected with the new pensions index system that intends to negotiate with social partners before bringing a proposal to the Parliament.

Social dialogue gains momentum under new government and delivers The Plan for Decent Work

In early June 2018, the Parliament appointed P. Sánchez as the new Prime Minister after winning no-confidence vote. In the following ten days, the new head of the executive had two tripartite meetings with trade unions and employer organisations in order to open a new social dialogue cycle and start negotiations around several issues, including a Plan for Decent Work. With these meetings, the new government transmitted social partners its strong commitment with social dialogue and the willingness to give it further momentum, after the revitalization experienced since 2015.

A first result of social dialogue has been the approval on 27th July of the Plan for Decent Work ( Plan Director para un Trabajo Digno). The purpose of this plan is to fight against precarious work and improve the quality of employment and working conditions, priority issues for the new government. According to the new ministry of labour, decent work is about ‘a job that ensures a decent wage, fair conditions, equality between men and women, social protection’ and security in prevention of occupational hazards. The Plan has been agreed with the autonomous communities, social partners and self-employed organizations, which have made their contributions.

The plan also aims at strengthening the human and material resources of the Labour Inspectorate to fight against false temporary contracts, the abuse and fraud of part-time contracts, combat the wage gap between men and women, reduce occupational accidents and prevent employers from forcing workers to become false self-employees. The plan includes 75 measures -of which 55 are specific inspection actions-, 20 organizational measures and two shock plans: one against fraud in temporary hiring and another against irregular use of part-time hiring. Both will begin to be implemented on 1st August 2018.

Agreement on Pension Revaluation

On 26 September an agreement was reached by all political parties represented in the Parliament (except for the Catalan left-wing nationalist Esquerra Republicana) whereby pensions will be updated according to prices. The Toledo Pact was signed in 1995 and reflects a consensus around the structural problem facing the pension system in Spain and the need to tackle them through the involvement of all political and social actors. According to the agreement reached in late September, even though other factors may also be considered when deciding pensions increase, prices will be the main element in order to ensure pensioners maintain their purchasing power. This is in line with the recommendation made in 2011 by the Toledo Pact Commission, but goes against the revaluation system that has governed pensions since 2012, which has meant very low increases, often below price developments. According to the Toledo Pact Commission, ‘the current Pension Revaluation Index (Índice de Revalorización de las Pensiones, IRP) does not enjoy sufficient political and social consensus,’. As a matter of fact, pensioners have protested several times this year.

The proposal will be part of the set of measures that the Toledo Pact will draft to guarantee the sustainability of the system, and that should be debated and voted on later in the Parliament. The government has already made clear their intention to involve social partners before bringing a proposal to the Parliament. These negotiations will serve to decide how to interpret the recommendation issued by the Toledo Pact to index them to the price index.

Trade unions alert about increase in occupational deaths

In recent weeks trade unions have alerted about an increase in occupational accidents and deaths, including the most recent case of a construction worker dead and some severely injured at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. Trade unions have showed their concern about this increase. According to official statistics, between January and July 2018 there have been 351,796 work accidents, 3,5% more than the number of accidents registered for the entire 2017. Moreover, there were 282 occupational deaths over that period, compared to the 286 registered over 2017. According to trade unions several factors may explain this increase, including the new momentum gained by the construction sector in the post-crisis period and outsourcing practices within this sector, the high rate of temporary employment, and companies saving on prevention of occupational accidents.

Commentary

The appointment of the new government has led to the launching of some initiatives in order to tackle precarious employment and the revitalization of social dialogue. These initiatives aim at consolidating the recovery of social and labour rights eroded during the crisis. It remains to be seen whether the government will be able to implement this ambitious reform plan given its weak parliamentary majority.

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