The labor reform has gone ahead, at least for now, but in a scene of heart attack and also bizarre: it has been the error in the telematic vote of a PP deputy that has allowed the Government to save the vote by the minimum, 175 to 174. The majority, although narrow, that the Government seemed to have the day before has been broken after the two deputies of the Unión del Pueblo Navarro (UPN) rebelled against their party’s instructions to support the reform and voted no. The tension has increased when the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet, when announcing the result, has said that the decree was “repealed”, because the lawyers, in another error, so stated. After a few seconds of bewilderment and verification of the lapse, the seats of the government groups have erupted in a noisy ovation, with the deputies of United We Can shout “yes, we can”. The euphoria was short-lived. At the moment, the PP has come out to ask the Table to correct a “computer error”, explained later: its deputy Alberto Casero used the telematic vote and this was counted as a yes, although the popular maintain that the mistake has not been of your parliamentarian, but from the electronic registration system of the Chamber. Batet has rejected his protests in the first instance, but the PP insists that his allegation be accepted, which would be equivalent to nullifying the reform. Its leader, Pablo Casado, has announced that he is willing to go to the Constitutional Court.
The unusual scene has been the culmination of several weeks of uncertainty and has allowed the Government to save one of the great projects of the legislature in the most unimaginable way. Or at least for now, because the PP is already announcing a battle to annul the vote. According to the popular version, Alberto Casero, who voted from home because he was sick, realized that the computer system had registered his vote backwards and has appeared in Congress to ask that they correct it. Batet has not allowed it, alleging that it is not contemplated in the regulations. Vox has also launched to describe what happened as a “rib” and announce that it will appeal to the Constitutional Court. The PP also announces that it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
Only that error, human or computer, has allowed the Executive to overcome the stumbling block that has meant that its main investiture partners, with ERC and PNV at the helm, turned their backs on it. UPN, a regionalist right-wing formation, seemed to be completing an alternative majority also made up of Ciudadanos, PDeCAT, Más País-Equo, Compromís, Canarias Coalition, Nueva Canarias, the Regionalist Party of Cantabria (PRC) and Teruel Exists. The Navarre parliamentarians had already surprised in the morning by criticizing their party’s decision to support the reform. And although they later assured that they would abide by the discipline, they avoided intervening in the debate and, at the moment of truth, Sergio Sayas and Carlos García Adanero have ended up doing the opposite. The UPN management has not been slow to demand that they hand over the seat, but Sayas has stated in the SER that they do not intend to do so. Another detail adds even more soap opera overtones to what happened: without the mistake of the popular parliamentarian, the Government would have lost the vote because United We Can has not yet filled the seat of the expelled Alberto Rodríguez.
The vote has been made to wait more than six hours after the conclusion of the debate, which had ended with the finding that the investiture partners joined the right in rejecting it, but with the support apparently guaranteed. A discussion of more than three hours that Ferran Bel, spokesman for the PDeCAT, summed up as follows: “The right has made an effort to overtake the employers on the right and the left has made an effort to overtake the unions on the left.” The latter have not missed the appointment, with the general secretaries of CC OO, Unai Sordo, and UGT, Pepe Álvarez, following the debate from the gallery. At the time that they ratified their no to the reform, Catalan and Basque nationalists promised that this will not mean the rupture of the parliamentary base that supports the coalition Executive. “The world is not ending”, said Gabriel Rufián, from ERC, graphically, after a harsh speech against a project that he has come to describe as a “scam”.
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In her defense of the reform, the Second Vice President and Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, has revealed the bittersweet moment that this outcome has meant for her. Díaz has carried out his great project, but he has had to give up the allies he wanted and has depended on groups such as Ciudadanos or UPN that he had made an effort to avoid. Díaz’s intervention has been passionate at times, interspersed with the confession that she feels “saddened” by the difficulties in saving a text that had taken nine months of intricate negotiations between unions and employers.
Díaz has complained that some of the groups with which he has negotiated did not even want to enter into the content of the reform. “It has been a superficial debate and thus we are not going to overcome the discredit of politics”, he lamented. The allusion was directed above all to ERC, since the vice president has expressly excluded the PNV from her reproach, which she has thanked, despite her no, for the attitude maintained during the negotiation. Díaz, in any case, has avoided confronting the investiture partners who have turned their backs on him and has only entered into a debate with the PP spokesperson, Cuca Gamarra.
The minister and visible head of United We Can in the Government has endeavored to show with examples how the reform will influence the working conditions of thousands of workers. “I am here to improve people’s lives,” he proclaimed. And then, even with names and surnames, he has been talking about the maids, the employees of the call centers, the workers of the auxiliary naval companies to explain with data how their salaries are going to improve and how they will get rid of the endless chain of temporary contracts. And there he has appealed to the left-wing forces that oppose a text that encourages indefinite contracts and prevents companies from getting out of collective agreements: “Explain to Cádiz, the Endesa workers or the chambermaids that, if for you out, tomorrow the working people would get up without ultraactivity [la vigencia de un convenio hasta que no se negocie otro]”.
His call has only found an echo in two leftist groups, Más País-Equo and Compromís. Meanwhile, ERC, EH Bildu, BNG or the CUP have struck with the same objections: the commitment to fully repeal the PP reform has been breached, employers have been granted a right of veto and “the historic opportunity” has been lost. to take advantage of the majority of the left in Congress, as underlined by the abertzale Oscar Matute. Rufián, who has not once met Diaz’s gaze while she followed his speech from the blue bench, has been the most hurtful and has concluded by affirming that his group cannot support a reform that is applauded by “the CEOE, FAES, the Banco Santander and Citizens”.
Even so, the investiture partners have ensured that the bloc will not break due to this setback. “Tomorrow we will continue talking,” Rufián announced, because ERC is “aware of what the alternative is” to the current government. Terms very similar to those used by Matute, who has promised that his group will do everything possible to close the path to the right.
The PNV also confirmed its No first thing in the morning, after having been negotiating until the night before. His rejection has been much more nuanced, wrapped in thanks to Díaz for his willingness to negotiate and focused on what has been his only claim, including the prevalence of regional agreements over state ones. The PNV spokesman, Aitor Esteban, has allowed himself a confidence, assuring that the employer’s president, Antonio Garamendi, confessed to his party in private that this clause had not altered the reform in any substantial way. Faced with the kind words towards the minister, Esteban has dropped reproaches to the socialists for having assumed the employer’s thesis that they could not “touch a single comma” of the project. In a speech much repeated by other spokesmen, the Basque nationalist has stated that this is equivalent to depriving Parliament of its exclusive power to legislate.
The decisive support of Ciudadanos has allowed the battered liberal formation to regain prominence. Its deputies made it even physically visible, all wearing orange masks that stood out on the floor. Its leader, Inés Arrimadas, has boasted that her group “always acts responsibly in important moments” and has managed to “lose ERC and Bildu” while Spain gains “credibility” in Europe due to the agreement between unions and employers. “Today I feel more proud than ever to be president of Ciudadanos”, she concluded. The argument of Arrimadas, that the Congress should not go against an agreement between the social agents, has also been used by the regionalist groups that have given their support. Joan Baldoví, from Compromís, has recognized that it is not the project that he would like, but has pointed out that “knocking down this reform does not guarantee that there will be another one”. Both he and Inés Sabanés, from Más País-Equo, have called to “recompose” the investiture block.
Díaz had based a large part of the defense of her project on attacking the PP reform, against which, as she has confessed, she herself went on strike and which caused “the greatest wage devaluation in our history.” There he has entered into combat with the popular Gamarra, who has maintained that it was this reform that allowed Spain to create employment after the Great Recession. With Pablo Casado, on a trip to Germany, as the only absent leader, Gamarra has oscillated between two different arguments. On the one hand, it has maintained that the Government is abandoning its initial intention of repealing the PP model. “You have gone from picket leader to troika leader,” he snapped at Díaz. But, at the same time, he has pointed out that the project is at the “conceptual antipodes” of the 2012 reform, a statement much celebrated by the minister. Gamarra has left Díaz a taunt for the end due to the tensions that the project has caused within the Government: “The sanchismo machinery has been launched against you, it has entered the cutting room.”