“Our approach is to reform constantly, in line with a changing reality”, stated the President of CEOE, Juan Rosell, when referring to the evolution followed by the organization. He highlighted that CEOE has an agile and updated structure, with a balanced budget; its members being the main source of financing. “This is the correct approach”, he said firmly. Furthermore, he pointed out that reforms should not be feared: “Companies undergo changes all the time without fear”, he added.
Rosell was addressing members of CEOE at the Ordinary General Assembly held in Madrid. In relation to the negotiations with the trade unions in view of a new Employment and Collective Bargaining Agreement (AENC, for its Spanish acronym), he underlined that “we, entrepreneurs, don’t understand how union leaders are not willing to sign what their ranks are doing. They show a worrisome paralysis”.
He explained that collective agreements are being signed without any problems covering more than 5 million workers with 1.53 per cent of wage increase in average so far. The collective agreements that are being signed range from 0.5 to 2 per cent and represent 90 per cent of the total number of workers. CEOE is offering up to a 2 per cent of wage increase plus a variable, which would depend on several parameters such as results, profits, absenteeism and many other factors.
At the General Assembly, the President of CEOE went over the different activities carried out by the organization over the past year and, after highlighting some aspects of the world economy, he focused on the Spanish economy pointing out that it is still growing in terms of GDP and job creation. “We’ve already recovered –he said- the ten GDP points we lost during the crisis, but not the almost 4 million jobs lost”.
Rosell stated that CEOE forecasts a GDP increase of 2.8 per cent for this year, which could be higher, and a decrease of unemployment rate close to 13.0 per cent in 2019. Among the positive features of our economy he also mentioned the increase in exports, which represent 34 per cent of GDP, and the reduction of private debt (family and business) from 216 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 163 per cent in 2017 (more than 50 points in terms of GDP). In addition, he pointed out that there does not seem to be inflationary tension and that we will continue to have an external trade surplus. On the other hand, with regards to the public sector, he criticized a debt level close to 100 per cent and a deficit around 3 per cent of GDP, reminding the need to “follow the path towards a budget balance”.
Juan Rosell added that the national budget for 2018 falls within the framework of a consolidation policy, although he insisted on the fact that “in the last national budgets the big looser has been investment, mostly investment in infrastructures and R&D&I, not current expenditures”.
He said that the main goal should be to stay focus on reducing the budget deficit and “tackling, among others, the reform of all public administrations, that it’s to say, local, regional, national and European public administrations.”
He stressed that entrepreneurs ask for substantial strategic reforms, with medium and long-term vision, although they are “easy to name and difficult to execute”. Among them, he emphasized: improving taxation; progressing in exports and investment abroad; digital transformation and implementation of the EU’s digital single market; more innovation and making-up for what has been lost in this area, as well as more and better education and training, through a comprehensive agreement among all the players.
In addition to the necessary reform of the public administrations, he stressed the need to invest more in infrastructures and reduce current expenditures because “it can be done, and it must be done”. He added that companies need less and better regulation. “We cannot deal with 166,000 standards and laws currently in force and one million of official journal pages per year. We cannot have different rules for each district in the same city. It is inefficient, and it leads to a loss of competitiveness.” Another reform is to empower women in terms of equality.
In labor matters he explained that the reform proposed by employers is in line with reality. In this regard, he indicated that “in Germany, in 2009, GDP fell 5.7 points and the employment rate fell zero points. They had enacted appropriate legislation that foresaw the problem. In Spain we have never been able to do this due of immobile and conservative positions.” After addressing the current situation of salary negotiations with unions, he said that the employers’ proposal to raise the National Minimum Wage (SMI, for its Spanish acronym) is, on the one hand, “an open war against the underground economy, one of the main problems of the economy” and, on the other, “a statement from the business community expressing that we do not want low wages and we are willing to contribute, especially with the lowest ones “. “Raising wages is not only a matter of decency, it’s also an intelligent thing to do, especially when it is feasible,” said Juan Rosell.
Meanwhile, he referred to the importance of democracy, respect for the law and the link between stability and leadership, emphasizing that “our contribution to stability has been important because we never confuse moderation with immobility”, adding that CEOE’s outlook is “more promising than before” because of the changes implemented.