The mother of all reforms | Spain

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The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, at the La Moncloa complex, this Friday.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, at the La Moncloa complex, this Friday.

It is no coincidence that the word “labor reform” is on the first page of the 50 that make up the government agreement signed by the PSOE and United We Can before closing the first coalition since the Second Republic. It is the founding element of the coalition itself. After promising that the Government will strengthen the instruments to reduce “inequality”, the word most repeated by Pedro Sánchez and Yolanda Díaz in all their speeches, the text of the pact goes to the point in point 1.3: “We will repeal the labor reform. We will recover the labor rights taken away by the labor reform of 2012 ″.

It has taken the coalition two years to get this reform ready since that text was signed in December 2019. But it has arrived. And this week is key. The Executive expects to close the agreement now, after a dizzying final stretch with daily meetings and almost permanent negotiations between employers, unions and the Government. It would be a key milestone to connect with the progressive electorate, which would be followed by another very symbolic element: in 2022 the minimum wage will reach 1,000 euros in all probability. It is not yet closed, but several sources in the Executive take it for granted.

The work for the labor reform is well advanced and it only remains to shape the last great obstacle, the legal limits to temporality, the great drama of the Spanish labor market that devours the expectations especially of young people. But even in this matter, agreeing to the formula on the table seems feasible: limiting the days per year that someone can be hired temporarily. The unions seek to leave it at 60. The employer is aiming for 120. The Government has raised 90. The result will come out of the negotiation, but the agreement seems feasible.

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The employer is negotiating every comma, very involved, and at all times it gives the feeling, according to sources of the negotiation, that it wants an agreement. The pressures are enormous, both within the bosses and in the unions, which have a lot at stake in the reform, and in the Executive, which has the watchful eye of Brussels.

Everything is hanging by a fine thread, as is normal in such a complex negotiation, but everyone has great incentives to reach an agreement, several political sources and social agents agree. Even the bosses, the most reluctant – they have always defended the 2012 reform as a great advance in flexibility – seem willing to give in on some things in exchange for winning in others because they know that if they stay out and the Government will only agree with the unions, the reform will be harsher for the interests of the business community. And in the parliamentary process, where there are partners further to the left, it could even go further if the employer’s association is out.

What is clear is that the reform is not going to be delayed, whether or not the employers are there. Both the second vice president, Yolanda Díaz, whose team leads the negotiation, and the first, Nadia Calviño, who has a director general of her ministry sitting at the table, have guaranteed that he will be there before December 31. The most likely right now is that he will go to the Council of Ministers of the 28th, although one could also look for an extraordinary one of those that have now become habitual.

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After enormous tension to see who controlled the reform, the coalition has found a balance and the presence of Economy and Inclusion at the negotiating table has not finally been as problematic as it was initially thought.

The PSOE wanted to be sure that it was not a reform of United We Can and that the businessmen would enter, and now it has seen that that seems on track. United We Can not claim the reform as something of Díaz, but of the entire Government, and if there is an agreement, Sánchez will be the one to translate it. In fact, the president has scheduled an appearance at the end of the year that would most likely take place on the 29th, just after presenting the new labor law.

The mother of all reforms, which was a central element of the campaigns of the PSOE and United We Can for years, will serve, if all goes according to plan, to put the final touch on a frenzied end of the year in which they are being approved key laws, such as the Budgets or the pension reform, with a solid majority more stable than expected. ERC support is always more complex to achieve, but in the end it comes. The audiovisual law is now practically closed too.

Sánchez intends to vindicate in that final appearance the cataract of reforms underway and above all that Spain is the first country to receive EU funds because it is the one that meets the milestones the fastest. In fact, in La Moncloa they are already finalizing the document called Fulfilling, with all the reforms.

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The councils of ministers and the plenary sessions of Congress and Senate these next few weeks are an evidence of this accelerated pace. Housing Law, Vocational Training, Minimum Vital Income reform, extension of the social shield, land and waste law, pensions, interim, as well as several strategic projects for the recovery and economic transformation (PERTE) of billions of euros.

The Executive also works to try to stop, as it did in Cádiz, the conflicts that threaten to give the image that the street is on fire, on which the opposition insists a lot. The new challenge is the employers’ strike of the carriers, which we are trying to avoid. All to achieve a quiet end of the year, with a balance that helps reconnect with a progressive electorate that seems more demobilized at this time than that of the right. Without forgetting that, as they recall in La Moncloa, and despite the opposition’s effervescence, the half-term of the legislature, which will arrive on January 7, has not yet been completed. There is a whole world ahead.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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