Transversal agreement in Catalonia to renew the labour relations framework and foster “negotiated flexibility”
The Catalan Government has signed an agreement with the main trade unions and business association to foster “negotiated flexibility” within the labour market. The aim is to provide companies with a greater flexibility framework while securing jobs. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, suggested the new Spanish Government follow Catalonia’s example of reaching an agreement with the social agents to improve the labour market.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government, the main trade unions and the largest business-owner association have signed an agreement to renew the labour relations framework in Catalonia. The agreement aims to foster what they have defined as \u201Cnegotiated flexibility\u201D, giving more flexibility to individual companies to reach collective agreements with their employees in order to avoid lay offs. Therefore, companies will profit from a greater flexibility framework, while employees will have more tools and guarantees to secure their jobs. This new framework agreement ruling labour relations in Catalonia will run from 2011 to 2014. The agreement had been reached on November 3rd between the main trade unions \u2013the General Workers Union (UGT) and the Workers\u2019 Commissions (CCOO)- and the largest business-owner association in Catalonia \u2013Foment del Treball Nacional. However, it was officially signed at the Catalan Government Palace on Monday morning, in order not to interfere with the last electoral campaign. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, stressed that the agreement aims to become \u201Ca tool for economic growth and employment\u201D. In addition, he asked the future Spanish Government \u201Cto follow Catalonia\u2019s example\u201D, which \u201Conce again has become a model with concrete initiatives\u201D. Trade union leaders and the Chairman of the business association, three weeks ago, said that the agreement reached aims \u201Cto orientate\u201D the new Spanish Parliament to reform the labour market.
The new Inter-professional Agreement for 2011-2014 prioritises \u201Cnegotiated flexibility\u201D to avoid job losses. The social agents promote dialogue as the main formula ruling labour relations in Catalonia. In addition, they defend the agreement reached in Catalonia as a way to \u201Corientate\u201D a labour market reform at Spanish level. Companies will have greater flexibility to negotiate collective agreements to manage human resources in difficult economic cycles. To reach the agreement, it has been essential the trade unions open attitude to discuss and solve the matter of absenteeism from work.
A greater role for Catalonia\u2019s Labour Court
In addition, Catalonia\u2019s Labour Court will have a greater role in order to become a true referent point in labour arbitrations and resolutions. Furthermore, it will not be affected by the budget cuts, and it is expected it will have greater resources. The Chairman of Foment, Joaquim Gay de Montellà, recognised that using Catalonia\u2019s Labour Court appropriately could save part of the \u20AC40 billion spent in labour conflict resolution processes by Catalan companies and who are currently waiting for judicial resolutions.
Two and a half months of talks
The agreement had been reached by the main trade unions \u2013the General Workers Union (UGT) and the Workers Commissions (CCOO)- and the largest business-owner association in Catalonia \u2013Foment del Treball Nacional after two and a half months of talks, and six intensive negotiation days. The agreement reached represents the third edition in a series that began in 2000. The 2011-2014 agreement is particularly conditioned by the economic crisis. It aims to foster the creation of quality employment and avoid \u201Cdefinitive\u201D adjustments of staff, in order to avoid massive lay offs.
Catalonia may be a model for a reform at Spanish level
The Catalan President said that \u201CCatalonia is leading certain processes and showing what path\u201D to follow. According to him, the labour market in Catalonia and Spain needs \u201Cflexibility\u201D and needs \u201Can update and change\u201D. Mas added that the new Spanish Government could \u201Cnote Catalonia\u2019s example\u201D, in order to handle the reform of the Spanish labour market. Regarding a labour market reform at Spanish level, Mas recognised that \u201Cwork is being done in some areas\u201D, but \u201Cit is the moment to work quickly\u201D, he concluded.
The social agents are satisfied with the agreement
The Catalan social agents are said to be very satisfied with the agreement. The Chairman of Foment, Joaquim Gay de Montellà, stated that the \u201Cagreement is proof of the unity to defend businesses and jobs within the Catalan labour market\u201D. Gay de Montellà praised \u201Cthe bravery of the trade unions\u201D. He also asked the Catalan Government \u201Cto continue with the adjustments it is undertaking\u201D to foster its austerity plan and implement its reforms.
The CCOO Secretary General in Catalonia, Joan Carles Gallego, defended \u201Cnegotiated flexibility\u201D as a way \u201Cto help companies adapt to the economic cycle\u201D, \u201Cwith the objective to avoid lay offs and externalising the solutions to the crisis\u201D. He also said that the agreed framework is \u201Cevidence that such agreements cannot be imposed\u201D, in a reference to formulas suggested by foreign governments and international organisations. UGT\u2019s leader in Catalonia, Josep Maria Àlvarez, explained that the agreement is proof that \u201Csocial agents can reach an agreement when they try\u201D. He also pointed out that with the agreement Catalan labour relations will continue to be based on corporate profit, corporate productivity and price evolution.