A country moving back to the 19th century
The labour market reform approved by José Luis Zapatero’s Government has been the strongest attack against labour and social rights in Spain during the last 30 years. In addition, it consists of deficit reduction measures, such as decreasing Public Administration staff wages by 5% and freezing pensions. This means a surprising and deceiving move towards the right-wing, which shows a total submission to economic powers and means going backwards to the 19th century.
The reform was made to make firing employees cheaper, which is the main objective of Spain’s business owners. Is this the best solution for a country that has reached a 20% unemployment rate and a 25% temporality rate? With this new law, the Government makes easier for what was once considered an unjustified dismissal to now be excused due to economic reasons. Employees will no longer have a 45-day compensation period per year worked but rather 20 days (including current permanent contracts). In other words, permanent and temporary contracts are equalised with the lowest conditions. If this is not enough, the fund for wage guarantee (which is fed by worker taxes) will pay 8 days. Therefore, from the company’s point of view, compensation for dismissal will be 12 days, a bargain.
In addition, the labour market reform is also a direct attack against collective negotiation, which will be put aside. From now on, substantial modifications of working conditions will be at the disposal of the employer’s will. The employer now may be able to terminate conventions and agreements regarding salaries and working hours.
However, one of the most worrying aspects is the privatisation of employment services. Private employment companies and temporary work companies will be able to perform labour mediation functions and decide whether or not to take away unemployment allowances from jobless persons. We can foresee that, in order to obtain economic benefits, these companies will put their efforts into finding a job for the person with the most possibilities. The less qualified will only be admitted through public employment services, which will become social care offices. Our country’s reality is, nevertheless, that 80% of unemployed people have a low to medium education profile.
These policies are unfair because they only affect the workers, making us twice the victims of the crisis. Moreover, they are also useless because they will become an obstacle to economic recovery and employment creation. What we need nowadays is to improve employment quality, foster consumption and economic activity and, especially transform our productive model, prioritising for added value production and investing in education and R&D.
However, we especially cannot accept these policies because they are measures dictated by international markets. Trade unions are the only organisations that are still standing up and facing this neoliberal offensive that is striking Europe. This offensive wants to debilitate states and democracy, suppress labour market rules, destroy the welfare state model and cut social protection.
Fort these reasons, the UGT and CCOO trade unions have called for a general strike on the 29th of September within the framework of a mobilisation day at the European level. We will paralyse the country to make the Government stop its labour reform. We will also send a warning signal regarding the announced collective negotiation and pension system reform projects, the new direct punches to workers’ rights.
Josep M. Àlvarez
Secretary General of the UGT de Catalunya