'Salary or conflict': Spain braces for massive industrial action over wage increases

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
'Salary or conflict': Spain braces for massive industrial action over wage increases
Secretary General of Union General de Trabajadores - UGT (General Union of Workers), Jose Maria Alvarez (4L) and Secretary General of Comisiones Obreras - CCOO (Workers' Commissions), Unai Sordo (3L) demonstrate against rising prices in March 2022. Photo: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU/ AFP

Two of Spain's biggest trade unions have warned of "great mobilisations" in the autumn if negotiations aren't opened and wage demands met for millions of workers in the country.


On Wednesday two of Spain's biggest national trade unions, the CCOO and UGT, demonstrated in major cities across the country and demanded new collective agreements that guarantee the purchasing power of wages and the inclusion of pay guarantees amid skyrocketing inflation rising the prices of everything from fuel bills to olive oil.

Both unions alluded to "great mobilisations" if the situation is not resolved, and Wednesday's demonstrations were part of a broader 'salario o conflicto' union campaign to win wage hikes.

In Madrid rallies were held outside the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) and the Business Confederation of Madrid (CEIM).


Unions are calling for a 3.5 percent increase, 2.5 percent by 2023 and 2 percent by 2024, including a salary review clause to allow unions to reassess wage demands as the economic situation develops.

The proposed industrial action comes amid broader walkouts and would not be the first in Spain this year, with sectors across the economy buckling under the pressure of increased fuel and goods prices. Spanish cabin crew on walked out over pay and conditions last month, cancelling and delayed hundreds of flights, and earlier in the year truck drivers ended a weeks long strike over fuel prices that left supermarket shelves empty in parts of southern Spain.


The general secretary of CC.OO, Unai Sordo, has pointed to the autumn as a period of potential industrial mobilisation if CEOE employers do not agree to a new wage agreement that guarantees the purchasing power of their workers.

"Let the employers make no union organizations have to mobilise the workers in blocked agreements so that the streets fill up, so that factories and workplaces stop, and we can break this barrier that prevents us from being able to maintain wages," Sordo said during the rally.

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Both CC.OO. and UGT have long been calling for salary hikes to deal with the effects of inflation, which in June reached 10.2 percent with the underlying rate at 5.5 percent - the highest since 1993.

Leader of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, believes wages increases need to come as part of broader "offensive and courageous fiscal measures," from the government, including addressing corporation tax for energy companies, because many have passed on increased prices to the consumer so as not to reduce their margins while accumulating "billions of surpluses."

Civil servants

But it's not just Spain's general unions demanding better wages. Civil servants are also demanding a bigger increase than the 2 percent wage offered to them in the 2022 budget, again mainly due to a loss of purchasing power within the current economic climate.

Civil servant representatives have also threatened a 'hot autumn' of action if negotiations do not begin quickly.

The unions consider the 2 percent increase agreed earlier this year to be insufficient, and are instead demanding a salary increase of at least 4.5 percent with retroactive effect, 3.5 percent in 2023, and a clause to review wages against the CPI, Spain's consumer price index.

The Independent Trade Union and Civil Servants' Central (CSIF) claims the proposed 2 percent increase is insufficient not only due to spiralling inflation, but because civil servants have, they say, experienced a 20 percent fall in purchasing power since 2010.

Political response

Spain's Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, has supported union demands for wage increases and as workers demonstrated on Wednesday made "a clear call" for the salary increase in line with the impact of inflation.

"The way out of this crisis as a result of the war in Ukraine cannot be that of Mariano Rajoy or the PP. We can't get out of this crisis by lowering wages. The impact of 10.2 percent of inflation on Spanish wage income is impossible. I am in favour, like the unions, of raising wages," Díaz said from Rome on Wednesday.

Her comments come amid speculation about a behind the scenes bust up between the government's two coalition partners, the PSOE, and junior partner Podemos, about increased defence spending commitments. 


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Anonymous 2022/07/08 09:25
And when everyone receives this wage increase, that will do what to the cost of goods? Do people really think this spiral stops when they get a bump in pay? It just accelerates things and drives us to a deep recession and then people will be happy to even have a job. The blind leading the blind

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