The (sometimes) difficult negotiation of a company collective bargaining agreement
There is no doubt that the reforms that have taken place in recent years have benefited the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements at companies, which has inevitably resulted in our labor courts having to position themselves in cases that until now either did not exist or were very uncommon.
One of the areas in which the Labor Chamber of the National Court (and the Supreme Court) have established case law is the representation of workers and the capacity to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, specifically when several work centers exist in different parts of Spain.
Although the law is clear in this regard and requires representation of all employees, on certain occasions collective bargaining agreements have been negotiated with the works council of the center with the majority of company workers and then applied to all the other work centers. An example would be a company with a head office and a large staff with worker representatives, as well as numerous small centers with very few workers and no worker representatives throughout Spain.
In its judgment dated October 9, 2015, the National Court had the opportunity to reinforce its doctrine, which is none other than to declare the collective bargaining agreement null and void in such cases, on the grounds of a lack of legitimate capacity to negotiate, doctrine that it shares with the Supreme Court.
According to the National Court, when a company has more than one work center, as in the case above, a problem arises between the representation and the negotiation team when the worker representatives are elected by one or only some of the work centers, given that according to arts. 62 and 63 of the Workers’ Statute, their capacity to represent is limited only to the centers that elected them.
This being the case, the judgment also contains two considerations with a certain degree of legal relevance:
- The first relates to the possibility of maintaining an agreement in force at the work center which was actually represented during the negotiations. This possibility was rejected by the National Court, which pointed out that it was not the initial intention of the parties, nor the aim with which the negotiating commission was set up, so the annulment of the agreement affects all work centers, including those that were effectively represented.
- The second consideration refers to the possibility of a company collective bargaining agreement negotiated by an initially legitimate committee (with the works council of the only existing work center) stating that the scope of application of the agreement will affect said work center and any other center that may exist in the future. This possibility has been rejected by the Supreme Court as well as the National Court itself, based on the lack of coherence between the scope of representation and the scope of application of the agreement.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Department