The purchasing power of workers navigates in troubled waters, amid an unusual rise in energy costs due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has triggered the upward trend in prices caused by the coronavirus. The fight between the will of the companies not to lose what they recovered and the will of the employees to maintain the umbilical cord between what they earn and what they spend has intensified in recent weeks. Curiously, the registered data reinforces both positions: wages agreed by agreement rose by an average of 2.26% until February, according to data from the collective bargaining statistics of the Ministry of Labor. This is an increase of two tenths compared to the January data, and almost eight tenths compared to the average for 2021 (1.47%). However, the distance with respect to the inflation forecast for this month is almost five points below (7.4%).
Wages are rising, although not at the pace set by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), so workers are demanding more, and companies are defending themselves by assuring that even if they do not exceed these thresholds, their situation would worsen. This intersection of arguments is the one that has been staged during the two meetings that employers (CEOE and Cepyme) and unions (UGT and CC OO) have held in recent weeks (the one on Tuesday was limited to addressing “general perspectives”, according to present sources assure), around the renewal of the Interconfederal Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining (AENC), expired since 2020.
The differences are remarkable. Entrepreneurs demand moderation. “Be careful not to drown the companies, because what we have to do is overcome the pothole,” acknowledged Antonio Garamendi, leader of the CEOE before the last meeting. And the unions press so that the distances are cut, although less and less. “Trading with a CPI of 7.4%, which is going to go to 8%, 9% or 10% in the next few months, makes trading very, very difficult. A salary increase of 8% or 10% in the short term is not realistic”, said Unai Sordo, general secretary of CC OO.
Four and a half million protected
In the data offered by the Labor Registry, the agreements whose economic effects have been projected in 2022 can be distinguished from those that have been approved this year. And there are small differences in terms of the agreed salary improvements: the first, 1,675, show an average increase of 2.26%; while those who passed this course, 19, improve it to 2.59%. In total, almost four and a half million workers are covered by the 1,694 collective agreements in force.
Of all of them, 72 (4.2%) contemplated a salary freeze, while 27.9% included a salary increase of more than 3%, the average being 5.6%. In contrast, 61.4% of the agreements move in average wage increases ranging from 0.5% to 2.5%.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
One of the problems caused by this break in frequency between wages and inflation is that when it soars, those agreements that do not contemplate revision clauses end up falling off the hook. According to Labor statistics, most of the agreements registered until February did not have it: only 277 (16.3%) contemplate it, although only 210 allow it to be applied retroactively. That is to say, of the 4.4 million workers protected by agreement, only 1.2 million see their returns improve based on the increase in inflation (28.7% of the total): seven out of ten do not have safeguard clauses .