Friday, December 8

The unions rearm with the labor reform but avoid mobilizations

The general secretaries of CCOO and UGT, Unai Sordo and Pepe Álvarez. / europe press

UGT and CC OO gain power in the negotiation of agreements but are still far from the maximum levels of militants and delegates in companies

Lucia Palacios

The unions will take to the streets this May 1 – in the more than 60 demonstrations called for today – with greater power and with a clear objective: to demand a salary increase in line with the prices so that the workers are not the losers of this new crisis.

The negotiation of a new agreement (AENC) with the employers that sets the rate of increase for this year and the following -along with other conditions- is paralyzed, but now they have a weapon that they did not have in the last decade. The recently approved labor counter-reform in Congress has given them back the bargaining power that the government of Mariano Rajoy cut off in 2012.

But since last January they have gained prominence when it comes to negotiating the agreements of the more than 7.6 million workers who are protected under this umbrella, according to data at the end of 2021. The main support they have in the face of this The negotiation that is more than complicated is that the agreements (and therefore the rights obtained) do not lapse and will remain in force until there is a new one, which is known as indefinite ultra-activity.

Another fundamental element has also been recovered: the prevalence of the sectoral agreement over the company agreement, which can no longer be used to lower wages and place them below what the sector marks. Similarly, contracts and subcontractors are now governed by the reference sectoral agreement, which will prevent situations of abuse from being committed and has raised the wages of a good part of the workers.

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The labor counter-reform has also vetoed dismissal for those companies that take advantage of one of the internal flexibility mechanisms that they have created (that is, the ERTE) to deal with future crises and has established clear limits on temporary employment, to the point that permanent hiring is skyrocketing in these first months of the year.

Achievements achieved

The achievements made in these last two years by the unions are many (thirteen specifically) and very relevant, with key aspects such as all the aid launched in times of pandemic to alleviate the effects of this crisis (ERTE, benefits for the self-employed, ICO guarantees, etc.), pensions, the regulation of workers’ rights such as teleworking, the rider law or the historic rise in the Interprofessional Minimum Wage (SMI), which has finally reached the level of 1,000 euros per month (in 14 payments), one of the great demands of the UGT and CC OO, the two main unions.

Gone are the cases of corruption such as the ‘black’ cards, the ERE in Andalusia or the training courses that took their toll.

However, and despite the fact that they have been coming back, gaining prominence and regaining prestige in these last two complicated years, in which they have experienced a pandemic, a volcano and now a war, UGT and CC OO are still far from their maximum levels. of representation. Along the way they have lost just over 400,000 members between them.

If in 2009 each organization exceeded 1.2 million supporters, today they are close to one million, although they have not yet managed to exceed it. It is true that since they hit their lowest point in 2015, when CC OO fell to below 910,000 members and UGT stood at 928,000, they have grown significantly year after year.

A decade since the last general strike against the Government

Unions keep a low profile on the street. The times in which day in and day out they also demonstrated against the different governments and employers are long gone. We have to go back to November 2012 for the last general strike against a president, against Mariano Rajoy, who became the only chief executive who suffered two consecutive strikes in the same year.

In addition to Rajoy, Adolfo Suárez, Felipe González, José María Aznar and even José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero experienced moments of tension with the unions, which called general strikes against them. Not against Pedro Sánchez, who for the moment has only had a slight mobilization due to the rise in prices. And everything indicates that they will continue to do so. “There is no justification for doing so,” defends Mariano Hoya, deputy secretary general for Trade Union Policy of the UGT. “In the last two years, rights have been recovered like never before in a democracy. On what basis does a union justify a mobilization against a government with which you sign? Why? Why do the media say so? Because the right says so? », He maintains.

On the contrary, the unions do predict a hot fall against the bosses if the salary agreement is not unblocked and the maintenance of the purchasing power of the workers is guaranteed. “If there is no collective bargaining, the mobilizations will grow and become more tense,” warns Mari Cruz Vicente, Secretary of Union Action of the CC OO.

Even so, there are no other organizations in Spain that achieve such a level of supporters. No political party arouses that degree of adherence: PP has around 780,000 members and the PSOE hardly reaches 180,000.

On the contrary, those that are better than ever are the other two large unions: USO, which has close to 120,000 members, and CSIF, the majority organization among public employees, with more than 230,000.

And not only have they lost supporters, but they also do not have the same degree of representation as before the 2008 crisis. Thus, the weight of CC OO in companies has fallen from the 39% it represented in 2010 to the current 35.5%. : from more than 116,000 to around 97,500 delegates.

And the decline of UGT is also notorious: its share of power has been reduced from 37.7% to 31.7% and the gap between the two widens to over four points. On the contrary, USO, the third union, with more than 11,200 delegates, and CSIF, with more than 10,500, have gained ground, as well as another series of unions that gain quota, similar to what happens in politics.

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