Torrent turns the Catalan SMI into one of its “strategic projects” and if this materializes, it will depend on the budgetary margin that it enables via public procurement
The ‘Minister’ of Business and Labor, Roger Torrent, intends to make the Catalan minimum reference wage one of his “strategic projects” for 2022. The Republican takes on the task of deploying this indicative SMI in Catalonia, removing it from the theoretical plane in which the current ‘president’ installed it Pere Aragonès when he was ‘Minister’ of Economy during the previous mandate and put it on the payrolls of part of the Catalan working population. For this, it invokes the complicity of the employers’ associations and the most representative unions. Although the one that will be essential to him is that of the current head of Economy, Jaume Giró, since the social agents agree that the path of this reference minimum wage goes through public contracting with social clauses.
At the last meeting of the Consell de Relacions Laborals de Catalunya, the body shared between the Department of Labor and the social agents, the deployment of the Catalan reference SMI was indicated as the main subject for next year. In December 2019, Aragonès presented a report in which he estimated that minimum floor at 1,239 euros gross (in 14 payments) for Catalonia, when a SMI of 900 euros prevailed throughout the State. The Generalitat completely lacks binding powers to set its own minimum wage, but the then ‘vice-president’ sought to reinforce the Catalan singularity by introducing this issue in collective bargaining between employers and unions.
The social agents at that time did not pick up their gauntlet, jealous that the Administration set the guidelines for bipartisan negotiation. Now Torrent resuscitates the subject again and wants to start with the elaboration of a qualitative and expert analysis on the subject and, later, present a new study with that updated figure of 1,239 euros. Afterwards, a process of agreement would be opened with Work Promotion, Pimec, CCOO Y UGT on how to implement it, according to sources from the ‘Ministry’ of Empresa i Treball.
Revulsive where collective bargaining does not reach
From the bosses’ bench they do not close the door to the measure, but they put conditions. “From Pimec we are in favor of sitting down to talk about salaries, especially those that are lower and in a situation like the current one. But as long as this is linked to improvements in productivity, effectiveness or efficiency ”, declares the general secretary of Pimec, Josep Ginesta. From Foment del Treball, to questions from EL PERIÓDICO, they have declined to comment on this issue until they have further worked and debated the measure.
Unions see this as a tool to provoke wage increases in sectors where it is difficult for them to negotiate them with companies. “It can be a shock to implement the rise of the lowest wages in collective bargaining. There are thousands of workers in Catalonia who are under an agreement with outdated tables regarding the SMI for years “, says the secretary of union action of CCOO de Catalunya, Cristina Torre. “Agreements related to the service of attention to people where salary increases have not been agreed because what the Administration pays is so tight that if companies raise salaries they eat the margin”, points out the secretary of sector policies of UGT de Catalunya, Jose Antonio Pasadas.
Giro has the key
“The Generalitat has margin to shield through social clauses that this minimum reference wage is applied in its contracts. But for this, it is necessary to put the resources ”, affirms the general secretary of Pimec. “If the formulas are adjusted well, it can be done. The Administration cannot ask the contractor for economic conditions that are not covered by the contract ”, agrees Pasadas, from UGT.
“If the Generalitat does not provide more resources, the measure is doomed to failure,” concludes the UGT leader. And it is that this reference minimum wage will be one of the many tests of the health of the independence coalition that governs the Generalitat. Although it will be Torrent (ERC) who will negotiate the implementation of these measures together with the social agents, the greater allocation of resources for public contracting demanded by both employers and unions depends on the custodian of the public coffers: the ‘Minister’ of Economy, Jaume Giró. If the leader promoted by the Junts reaches out and accompanies the measure budgetaryly, it is likely to prosper. And if, on the contrary, it alleges a lack of liquidity and does not provide extra funding for public procurement that adopts these social clauses, the Catalan SMI will remain, as it has been up to now, in a drawer.
The SMI at 1,000 euros, during January
The central government has yet to address the rise in the minimum interprofessional wage (SMI) for the year 2022. At the moment this salary floor will start the year at 965 gross euros (in 14 payments) and with the Executive’s commitment to reach a figure close to the 1.000 euros. After the negotiating marathon for the labor reform, the social agents give themselves a brief truce to return to sit at the table starting in January to address this issue.
The intention of the Ministry of Labor is to carry out the mandatory consultation period by law during the first month of 2022 and try to agree on a figure during it, to apply it retroactively as of January 1. In 2020, in the early stages of the coalition government, this formula was already repeated with an agreed increase from 900 to 950 euros. Although the last increase, from 950 to 965 euros, did not have the support of the CEOE. The position that employers adopt on this occasion is not clear and if, if they oppose an increase, this could lead to differentiated positions within the Government that could delay the final decision of whether or not to raise (and how much) the SMI this 2022, as it already happened in 2021.