March 25, 2023

new year, new agreement. 230,000 department store workers start a new academic year pending the renewal of their collective agreement, an agreement to be negotiated with the sector’s employers (Anged) that is especially important given the current inflationary context. In this new pact it will try to compensate for the loss of economic capacity, but also to tie up other pending subjects of the Spanish labor system, such as the ‘melon’ of the sustainability of pensions.

The Valorian union, formerly known as Fasga and which leads the representation of El Corte Inglés employees, seeks to go one step beyond the usual demands with wages and hours. Among his claims he has included that companies implement the social security known as ‘Austrian backpack’. This system would imply the implementation -prior to the workers- of an individual savings bank where the company makes monthly contributions based on the gross salary of each employee, so that, upon retirement, they can count on that money.

In the event of leaving or being fired, the employee would continue to keep the contribution bag until the end of his working life, or until he considers making use of them. In exchange, the severance pay would be reduced or eliminated, which is the aspect that to date has aroused the most controversy in the debates that have taken place in this regard in Spain.

This model would mean going beyond the current savings plans, since other contributions beyond the one destined for retirement could be incorporated -such as bonuses- and would include the possibility of disposing of part of the money before retiring. The savings accumulated in this fund could be managed by the State or by third parties, in order to obtain a greater economic return.

This claim by Valorian is far from those of the rest of the unions, but it is not the first time that it has been part of the public debate. A UGT study concluded that it would harm permanent workers with greater seniority in exchange for temporary workers. Other authoritative voices will indicate that this system would make it possible to end the duality of the labor model, where precariousness mainly affects newcomers.

Also in its day it was part of the Ciudadanos economic program, and even the Bank of Spain asked to use European funds to start implementing this ‘backpack’. “We intend that tomorrow’s pensions begin to be paid now. It would be a leap in quality to retain talent in the sector,” says Miguel Venegas, president of Valorian. He gives the example of the United Kingdom, where 50% of the country’s wage bill has already taken advantage of this system.

Main claims already settled

If the unions agree on anything, it is trying to compensate for the loss of purchasing power accumulated by department store personnel. With inflation of 8.4% in 2022, salaries barely rose 1%, what was set in the agreement, the same value as the previous year. The next increase in the interprofessional minimum wage (SMI) has become one more argument to support their demand. If the Minister of Labor Yolanda Díaz succeeds in getting her proposal to raise it to 1,082 euros in 2023, it will have risen 45% in five years. During this time, the increases established in the agreements will barely have raised salaries by 10%.

“The increase in pay means more and better work,” defends Venegas. For this reason, the workers’ representatives seek to negotiate a minimum increase of 18% in salaries for the period 2023-2026, with a view to making the base salary exceed 18,000 euros. Valorian will ask that this increase be 18.4%: increases of 6% for 2023 and 2024 and 3.2% for 2025 and 2026. CCOO proposes annual increases of 4.5%; while Fetico has set them at 4.225% per year.

Among the rest of the union demands are the reduction of the annual working day -currently it is at 1,770 and they propose lowering it to values ​​between 1,762 and 1,758 hours- or one more day of vacation. Another claim is committed to reducing the work on weekends: the proposals of Valorian or Fetico include reducing from 23 to 17 working Sundays per year, while from the CCOO they propose to guarantee one free weekend per month and two full days at night. week.

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