The Spanish government has raised the Minimum Interprofessional Wage (SMI) by 80 euros per month with effect from 2023. In other words, the Spanish minimum wage stands at 1,080 euros per month for 14 payments, since in Spain, in addition to the twelve monthly payments, there are two compulsory extra payments in July and December. Although the announcement was made at the end of January, workers will receive the January increase retroactively.
USO considers minimum wage rises to be very positive, especially in the context of generalised inflation in Spain and the rest of Europe. However, there are several factors that cast a shadow over this news: the amount, the timing and the mode of negotiation.
Why is 1,080 euros a low minimum wage?
In Spain, wages have been devalued for many years. Although there have been higher rises in recent years, neither wages in general nor the SMI have kept pace with the living wage.
"The European Trade Union Confederation itself, and many other European bodies, as well as independent experts, have set a value for the SMI: 60% of a country's average wage. And in the case of Spain, based on official statistics, this is not 1,080 euros per month, but 1,219 euros. That is why we consider the increase to be insufficient," argues USO's secretary general.
Why does it damage workers to raise the SMI when the year has already begun?
"The Spanish system of public procurement of services renews many of these services on 1 January. The contract is signed for one year and the company awarded the contract calculates on this basis the salaries of its staff and its profits. In other words, the budget is given with an SMI of 1,000 euros in mind and is signed for the whole year. It must be said that it precisely these public administration service companies are the ones that pay this minimum wage, because the sectors that receive the minimum wage are security, maintenance and cleaning services. SMI raises after the 1st of January can lead to non-payments, dismissals or non-fulfilment of services because the companies do not reach the expected profit due to changes in personnel costs".
For all these reasons, USO defends that the year should start with the SMI already established, forcing the negotiations in December, when the inflationary trend and the average wages are already known.
A limited social dialogue
Finally, another endemic issue in the SMI negotiations and other decisions affecting all workers is Spain's model of social dialogue.
"Both the Workers' Statute, which is the basic regulation of labour relations, and the Organic Law on Trade Union Freedom, which sets out the regulation of trade unions, are undemocratic. They benefit two big unions, which have more rights than the other unions, which means that they receive public funding to support their structures, that they can obstruct the right to hold union elections if they do not have candidates or that they are the only ones who can negotiate for all workers, unemployed and retired, when the percentage of workers who vote for other unions is increasing", explains USO's secretary general.
"It is a model born in a very specific historical context, at the beginning of democracy, but which can no longer be accepted today, 40 years later", regrets USO.
Laura Estévez Fernández, USO
More info: www.uso.es