End of the metal strike in Cadiz: a defused Spanish revolt – for now
On November 23, the 9-day strike of 22,000 steelworkers in the bay of Cadiz (Andalusia) seemed certain to continue to dominate media coverage, with continued scenes of burning barricades, angry rallies and assaults by the riot squad of the National Police Corps (CNP), complete with his armored car, in the popular districts of the city.
The Association of Employers of Metallurgy of Cadiz and Algeciras (FEMCA) refused to budge, rejecting the demand of the metalworking unions for a wage increase of 2%, 2.5% and 3% for 2021, 2022 and 2023 and excluding additional automatic increases to cover inflation (from 5.6% in October).
However, only 24 hours later and after 10 hours of negotiations, the two sides announced that they had reached a draft agreement.
According to the two trade union confederations party to the agreement – the Workers ‘Commissions (CCOO) and the General Workers’ Union (UGT) – their workplace delegates then supported the agreement 100%, 90% of the metalworkers voting in favor at workplace meetings held. early the next day.
The CCOO and the UGT, which represent the majority of metallurgists in the Bay of Cadiz, then called off the strike: Cadiz had gone from class war to class peace in less than a day.
The UGT estimated that “our main demands have been satisfied, in particular the maintenance of the purchasing power of the workers”.
The CCOO declared that it was “much closer to the positions that we, the workers’ representatives, were defending than to the claims of the employers”.
However, the organizations not seated at the negotiating table – the Federation of Metallurgical Unions of the General Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalist Labor (FESIM-CGT) and the Coordinating Committee of Metallurgists of the Bay of Cadiz (CTM) – have denounced the agreement. like a clearance sale.
The CGT press release of November 26 said: “[T]The wage increase is much lower than the current CPI and even further away from initial demand. Moreover, the agreement turns out to be an attack on casual workers, those who bear the brunt of instability in the sector.
The CTM said: âWe did not fight for nine days of strike, losing most of our wages and resisting attacks and brutality from the police, only to resign ourselves to a contract which is a gift to employers. . “
FEMCA spokesman JosÃ© MuÃ±oz called the deal “satisfactory”, adding that “agreements are made when the parties give in on the priorities explained to them, and in this case, although it has It took a long time to find the balance point we got there and hopefully this will help create businesses and jobs â.
Win or lose?
How can the two parties claim the victory of this agreement? Which side has given way the most? And how could seemingly distant positions come to an agreement so quickly?
The heart of the deal is that the CCOO and UGT ceded to employers on two issues – a three-year contract (unions wanted two years) and a maximum pay rise of 2% for each year from 2021 to 2023. – while FEMCA has ceded ground on the principle of compensation for price increases.
FEMCA, however, did not accept the automatic adjustment of wages to the rate of inflation (as is currently the case for pensions in Spain).
He agreed that 80% of the increase in the CPI for any year above 2% would be stuck in the wage rates for the following year, while the uncompensated 20% would be added to the wage rates at the start of the year. next contract.
For example, if the CPI for 2021 turns out to be 6%, then 80% of the 4% that exceeds the 2% nominal wage increase (i.e. 3.2%) will be added at the wage rate for 2022.
The 20% uncompensated CPI increases over the 3 years of the contract (in this example 0.8% per year, 2.4% in total) will be added to the wage rates to be applied at the start of the next contract, in 2024 at the earliest.
This pattern of âdeferred total indexationâ meant that the CCOO and the UGT could claim that the major concern of the workers, the maintenance of purchasing power, would (eventually) be satisfied.
The majority unions also stressed that the respect of the agreement would be guaranteed by a control commission of the two parties, with the contribution of the industrial inspection service of the Spanish government.
A CCOO negotiator said that this point has provoked the greatest resistance from FEMCA: it will now be more difficult to flout the contract in poorly organized workplaces, a practice prevalent in the 700 small companies that supply components and parts. services to large factories.
Pains that remain
The outcome of the deal will depend on two factors: the rate of inflation (rising due to soaring energy and commodity prices) and the ability of unions to force employers to comply.
However, even in the best of circumstances for workers, their choices are slim and the main issues that have led to such strong worker and community sympathy with the strike – in Cadiz, Andalusia and all over Spain – are still not processed.
There has been no attempt to catch up with lost wages in the decade since the financial crisis and no mention of compensation for future productivity gains, although these are quite likely given the ‘increased investment in large-scale infrastructure envisaged in the Green Union European Deal for the industrial area of ââCadiz.
The worst-case scenario that employers face is a payroll that increases, in the example above, by 6% in real terms, while any increase in income above that figure will go directly to the benefit of the company.
The worst feature of the deal is that it does nothing against precariousness. Community hatred of its impacts – the lack of defense of workers in the face of employers’ demands for overtime (often unpaid) and weekend work, and the threat of dismissal in the event of refusal – contributed to the enormous support for the strike.
During his 9 days, the media have reported how bad the life of a laid back can be, with a TV channel revealing that boilermakers repairing cruise ships were paid â¬ 5 an hour for 12 hour days.
Nothing in the agreement requires casual workers to become permanent after a certain period of work.
The mayor of Cadiz, JosÃ© MarÃa GonzÃ¡lez (“Kichi”) of Forward Andalusia (AA), a supporter of the strike from day one, wrote in November 25 La Voz del Sur: “Obviously, this is not my agreement, but I would have preferred one which included more improvements – fair and requested – to the situation of the precarious, which would put an end to part-time work.”
What was the real support for the CCOO-UGT-FEMCA agreement?
The CGT issued a statement on November 26 stating that more than 100 companies had not voted on the draft agreement and that in many other workplaces workers believed the result had been falsified because the entire staff were prevented from voting.
The CGT also underlined the “suspicious” speed with which the vote took place: “The agreement was settled in the last hour of Wednesday 24 and in barely 10 hours, without the workforce having sufficient information, the vote had already taken place “.
In a rare example of a workplace where a real debate on the draft agreement took place, it was overwhelmingly rejected.
The Cadiz metal strike ended so quickly because immense pressure was exerted by the Spanish and Andalusian governments to end a struggle that inspired new waves of support and sympathy every day and increased the risk that other sectors of workers follow his example.
It also exacerbated tensions within the Spanish coalition government of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos (UP).
While Attorney General Fernando Grande-Marlaska (PSOE) sanctioned the operation of the CNP riot squad’s armored car and local PSOE leaders accused Mayor GonzÃ¡lez of being an âarsonistâ, the Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda DÃaz (UP) felt that she should defend the workers. and GonzÃ¡lez and demand the withdrawal of the armored car.
PSOE Industry Minister Reyes Maroto has pushed to end the dispute. According to November 25 Public, she facilitated the resolution by insisting that the CCOO and UGT negotiate as one team and that FEMCA resist the temptation to withdraw from the negotiations and starve the workers. Although she was never at the negotiating table, her âsuggestionsâ helped shape the draft agreement.
Once this is achieved, the CCOO and UGT machines could be tasked with producing the âoverwhelming majorityâ needed to support.
[Dick Nichols is Green Leftâs European correspondent, based in Barcelona.]