ERC has been placed this Thursday on the side of the block of the no to the labor reform that the Government tries to validate in Congress in just one week. The Catalan pro-independence formation has participated, together with EH Bildu, the CUP and the BNG, in the reading of a joint manifesto on the labor reform in which it is considered that the measures promoted by the coalition Executive are “totally insufficient” and show his “sincere and absolute will to open a negotiation process with the Government to reach an agreement that allows an ambitious labor reform to be approved.” The ERC negotiator in Congress, Jordi Salvador, has launched several notices to the Government, the socialist sector and Vice President Yolanda Díaz, these days on a visit to Barcelona, to which he has blurted out that he is leading the negotiation in Madrid. Díaz has insisted on his willingness to negotiate until the end: “I never get up from the table,” he said in Martorell (Barcelona).
“We value certain aspects and measures that the labor reform contemplates in relation to two issues such as temporality and precariousness, important issues of the labor market that, we share, must be corrected. But we also consider that the measures contemplated in these fields are totally insufficient to achieve the objective of restoring the basic labor rights taken away through the 2012 labor reform″. With this forcefulness and clarity begins the manifesto of the four leftist, nationalist and independentist parties presented this Thursday in Congress to pressure the Government in this final phase of the negotiation of one of the most emblematic projects of the legislature.
The four parties of that block clearly situated now in the no to the project agreed by the Government, the employers’ association and the unions at Christmas thus clarify, firmly, that this decree that is now intended to be validated in the Cortes, in a plenary session on the 3rd of February, “does not constitute the repeal” of the labor reform promoted in 2012 with an absolute majority by an Executive of the PP of Mariano Rajoy.
These four “sovereignty and leftist” forces point out that they would still be willing to dialogue and negotiate “changes and improvements” with the Government before the final vote, but they introduce a catalog of seven basic claims that the Government and especially the PSOE do not contemplate in no way, like, to begin with, the possibility of processing this reform now as a bill in Congress. The Executive, in this case both in its socialist sector and in that of United We Can, is committed to not offering that option because it is categorically rejected by the employers, who do not trust possible changes or tweaks to what has already been agreed, in the amendments that they would have to agree with many parties.
For her part, after meeting with the President of SEAT, Wayne Griffiths and visiting the Martorell factory, Vice President Díaz appeared to outline the benefits of the labor reform because, she said, “it improves people’s lives. It is very difficult to say no to this text.” The vice president, who has already closed her visit to Catalonia this afternoon, has slipped that she knew the content of the manifesto presented in Congress and has maintained that her negotiations with ERC continue. “And of course”, he has explicitly emphasized, “with Jordi Salvador with whom we are working. I want to tell the workers that this standard is not at risk and is not in danger.”
Díaz has not wanted to reveal the content of the conversations with the Republicans to favor consensus and has expressed his confidence that it is not necessary to open the door to an agreement with Ciudadanos. “I don’t know if they know in Catalonia that I never get up from the table,” he warned. “It is very difficult. I’m going to exhaust the negotiation. I am convinced that those forces [las firmantes del manifiesto] they know from precept one to the last provision that with the reform the rights of the workers of our country are recovered”.
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The spokespersons of these four sovereigntist and left-wing formations, which in many cases have supported projects and initiatives of the Coalition Executive in this legislature, successively and by paragraphs read the three pages of their manifesto with the pretense, for now very distant, that the Government bend to undertake a negotiation of future amendments in the parliamentary procedure that they understand supports “a social majority and of the peoples of the State”, according to Mireia Vehí, the representative of the CUP.
The press conference after the reading of the manifesto focused, however, on questions to clarify the position that the Esquerra Republicana will have in that vote. The ERC spokesman on labor matters, Jordi Salvador, tried, on the one hand, to give the impression that he was adhering to the most radical demands of the other left-wing and pro-independence formations in the Chamber and, at the same time, to leave a gap open for a negotiation in extremis. Salvador is, in addition to being a deputy of the ERC, a former secretary general of the UGT in Tarragona and an interlocutor of his training in contacts with Vice President Díaz. UGT signed the social agreement with the Government and employers, and defends its validity. Salvador understands that the unions have done “what they could in that process” but maintains that now it should be the turn of the parliamentary process. And he believes, compared to what the PSOE has committed to, that there would now be time to play some commas as he passes through Congress.
“Each force has its own personality,” Salvador pointed out to try to explain the complex moments that the ERC is going through, adding that the PSOE must always be forced to negotiate and change its positions when it is in government, in line with a conclusion that always marks in his appearances before this type of negotiations his spokesman in the Chamber, Gabriel Rufián.
The Second Vice President of the Government and Minister of Labor and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, is on tour these days in Barcelona to defend the labor reform before the Catalan unions. The meetings in Catalonia are part of the negotiation to approve the new regulations in Congress. During these meetings, the second vice president has met and even dined with the conseller of Catalan Labor, Roger Torrent, to obtain Esquerra’s support for the labor reform. The Government has been reiterating for weeks that the labor reform, in addition to being halfway to what the Government intended, should incorporate the capacity of the Generalitat to authorize employment regulations (ERE) and the prevalence of regional agreements over those of rank state, although most that are signed are provincial. That demand also appears in one of the points of the manifesto presented this Thursday in Congress.
The ERC spokesperson for labor issues in the Lower House, who has exchanged contacts, calls and documents in these weeks with the Ministry of Labor headed by Díaz, wanted to differentiate in this key phase of the negotiation the role of the vice president from that which she is exercising the PSOE as the staunchest guardian of the already closed pact. “They are different, on the part of Díaz there are attempts, but this is a coalition government and there are other people here that I do not know and that I do not know who has voted for them that they are exercising a veto,” Salvador added. ERC sources later specified that he was referring to the president of the CEOE employers’ association, Antonio Garamendi. Salvador, in any case, alerted Díaz that the negotiation by the ERC is not carried out in Catalonia or the conseller Torrent nor the unions: “The negotiator is here in Madrid”. He said to refer to himself.
Mireia Vehí, from the CUP, pointed out about Díaz’s role and his dialogue only with the CC OO and UGT unions that the vice president “only talks with those who are interested and with those who agree with his labor reform” and indicated that in In Catalonia, there are other social forces that have called important strikes and that are not on the same page. Néstor Rego, the BNG deputy, clarified that in Galicia there are also other relevant union representatives and also that in that community the intersectoral agreement sealed since January 2017 in the Basque Country exists but has not been signed, in which the prevalence of agreements is already established regional over the national level. Another point that got into the manifesto.
On Wednesday night, Díaz defended that the text can be approved with the majority of the investiture, that is, with the PNV and ERC. Regarding the support of Ciudadanos for the initiative, he maintained that it is a closed road that does not add enough support.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.