Why are collective bargaining agreements crucial in Spain?

Collective bargaining agreements (collective agreements) are agreements negotiated between employee representatives, the trade unions, and employer representatives, the employers’ associations. Collective agreements regulate the working conditions in a company, an industry or a specific sector and deal with economic (wages, paid services, etc.) and labour (working hours, holidays, etc.) aspects, among others.

Collective agreements or collective bargaining agreements are the convenios colectivos in Spain, conventions collectives in France, and Tarifverträge in Germany.

What are collective bargaining agreements for?

Collective bargaining agreements in Spain are a fundamental element for the proper running of any company. Their main objective is to reach agreements between employees and management to improve working conditions and achieve an elevated level of productivity. In addition, collective bargaining agreements allow companies to adapt to employees´ needs to favour a more productive and efficient working environment.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally binding agreements between employers and employees or their representatives. They provide legal protection for employees and can contribute to employment stability in the Spanish business environment.

What do collective agreements regulate? 

Collective agreements regulate relevant issues in labour relations between workers and companies, such as employment contracts, wages, working hours and leave. Therefore, companies need to have a detailed knowledge of the collective agreement applicable to their sector, including its validity and its clauses. The correct application of these agreements is not only a legal obligation for the company but also helps to prevent conflicts or claims by employees. In this regard, it is crucial to note that a lack of knowledge or incorrect application of the collective agreement can lead to financial penalties or even loss of business reputation.

What types of collective agreements exist in Spain? 

Spain classifies collective agreements according to their scope of application and the parties that negotiate them. The main types of collective agreements are:

  • Company Collective Agreements: They apply to companies or groups of companies; workers’ representatives and company management negotiate them.
  • Local or Regional Sectoral Agreements: They apply to a sector of economic activity at a local or regional level; employees’ and employers’ representatives of that sector in the locality or region concerned negotiate them.
  • Interprovincial Sectoral Agreements: They apply to several provinces or autonomous communities; employees’ and employers’ representatives from different sectors negotiate them.
  • Provincial Sectoral Agreements: They apply at a provincial level to a specific sector of economic activity; employees’ and employers’ representatives from that sector in the province concerned negotiate them.
  • Territorial Collective Agreements: They apply to a specific geographical area (e.g., an autonomous community or a province); employees’ and employers’ representatives from that region negotiate them.
  • State and National Collective Agreement: They apply to the whole of Spain; employees’ and employers’ representatives at the state level negotiate them.
  • Sectoral Collective Agreements: They apply to a concrete sector of economic activity (e.g., metal industry, construction, textile, etc.); employees’ and employers’ representatives negotiate them.
  • Intersectoral Collective Agreements: They apply to several sectors of activity; workers’ and employers’ representatives from different sectors negotiate them.

Article 84.2 of the Workers’ Statute establishes the order of application of collective agreements. Even if a collective bargaining agreement is applicable, the legal rules outlined in labour legislation are mandatory.

Statutory or extra-statutory agreements

Collective agreements may be statutory or non-statutory. The former are negotiated under the provisions of the Workers’ Statute and apply to all employees and companies in the sector to which the agreement refers, irrespective of their trade union affiliation.

On the other hand, extra-statutory collective agreements are agreements negotiated by employees’ representatives and employers outside the requirements of the Workers’ Statute. They affect only the employees who are members of the signatory unions and the employers who are members of the employers’ organisations involved in their negotiation.

For example, a statutory collective agreement could be the settlement reached at a national level to regulate the working conditions of employees in the hotel industry; an extra-statutory collective agreement could be the agreement negotiated by a construction employees’ union with a specific construction company.

How is representation in collective bargaining determined?

The representation of employees and the company in collective bargaining depends on various factors, such as the scope of application of the agreement and the company size. The former refers to the geographical and (or) sectorial extent to which the settlement will apply. As for the representation of the company and depending on its structure and size, the negotiation of the collective agreement will be the responsibility of the individual employer, his legal representative, the management body, or the employers’ associations.

Collective agreements are a fundamental tool for regulating labour relations in Spain. However, their complexity can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. It is, therefore, crucial for the employer to know them, differentiate them and apply them correctly to comply with legal obligations and avoid possible conflicts with their employees.

Eduardo De Sousa

If you need additional information on collective bargaining agreements in Spain,

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice.

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