Ultraactividad and related provisions
As was only to be expected, no-one was left unmoved by the changes made to article 86 of the Workers’ Statute (WS) regarding the validity of collective labor agreements.
Moreover, the situation was made worse by the peculiar lack of definition surrounding labor relationships in cases where there was no higher-level collective labor agreement.
Academic theories began to abound, from the “contractualization” of collective labor agreement conditions to the application of the general legislation (essentially, the Workers’ Statute), with a host of hybrid positions which, unfortunately, have not been clarified due to the scant number of court rulings on the matter (in particular, the National Appellate Court judgment in July 2013, which revealed that in judging the different situations, regard must be had to the specific circumstances of each case.)
Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that the majority of social partners have decided, while negotiating collective labor agreements for which notice of expiration has been served and which have expired, to sign extended-validity (or ultraactividad) agreements relating to the agreed texts, with a view to defining, in a more specific manner, the rules governing the labor relationships between employers and workers during this period and, in particular, to prevent a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the negotiations at the end of the one-year period provided for in article 86 WS.
In this regard, it is worth referring to the fact that some collective labor agreements approved after July 8, 2013, have provided for clauses that maintain the validity of the collective labor agreement, once notice of expiration has been served and while the negotiations are held, for periods well in excess of the one-year period set in the Workers’ Statute (by way of example, the agreed text of the State Collective Labor Agreement for the pulp, paper and cardboard industry, which states that it will cease to be valid after twenty-four months).
In any event, solutions were even put in place prior to July 8, notably in the case of the professional football collective labor agreement which, by means of the Decision of July 17, 2013, agreed to increase the extended validity period of the agreement by a period of one year, although it establishes a series of matters with respect to which the extended validity period specifically does not apply.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that, after July 8, the regime for extended validity of collective labor agreements is one of the major and most significant matters under Spanish labor law and the uncertainty surrounding it will only be clarified as and when disputes are resolved by the courts.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department