There might be conflict if the unions and hoteliers can't agree a satisfactory pay increase. | Pere Bota

Wage negotiations for the hospitality sector are due to start early in the new year. These will involve the Majorca Hoteliers Federation and other associations which represent bars and restaurants and nightlife in discussion with the relevant unions. It is not expected that they will be easy.

The unions have been talking in terms of a 10% pay increase. The regional government, which has been demanding improved salaries as part of its drive to better quality of employment, will not be directly involved with the negotiations but it will clearly be taking a close interest in them.

One complication with the negotiations is that the non-hotel complementary sector wants a separate settlement rather than the collective agreement for the whole of the hospitality industry. It argues that revenues and profits have not been increasing at anything like the rates of the hoteliers. It can't afford a significant pay rise.

A further one is the division within the hoteliers federation itself. There have long been differences between the large and smaller chains, and these are now being exposed. The resignation of Inma Benito as president of the federation adds yet another complication and further exposes the rift that exists within the federation.

The Big Four hotel groups - Barceló, Iberostar, Meliá, Riu - all appear to be willing to agree to a significant pay increase, though this may not be the double-digit one that the unions are wanting. There could be other hoteliers who agree with the Big Four, but there is a specific group which does not. This is a group with particular representation in the north of Majorca and includes the likes of Grupotel and Garden.

The unions recognise that there is a difference of opinion among the hoteliers. Benito's departure disadvantages them as much as it does the hoteliers federation, as there is no obvious "interlocutor" for the unions to negotiate with. As mentioned in the Bulletin, the president of the Playa de Muro hoteliers association is to assume the presidency of the federation at least on a temporary basis, and he - Gabriel Llobera - is from Garden. Union representatives recognise that Benito had maintained good dialogue with them. With the wage negotiations, the unions will be starting almost from scratch with someone else.

One more complication is the proximity of elections. These will be in 2019. The government, needing to prove to the electorate that it is winning the fight for improved pay and conditions, will desperately want a result that reflects well on it. The government will also be fearful of any prospect of strike action next summer, which could be the consequence of an offer that is well below union demands.

The unions' position is that its members should enjoy greater benefits than they have been from the recent record tourism seasons. Pay will be one factor. There will also be the conditions and contracts. Again, the government is determined to get more employees onto fixed contracts rather than temporary ones.