The strange case of labor reform

The strange case of labor reform

Via Sin Permiso It is urgent for someone to show up in Hispanic literature and dares to update the Valleinclanesque works and portray for posterity the grotesque nature of this reality that shames us. The combination of corruption, lack of scruples and ethics, the hidden powers that impose their conditions, the absence of alternative projects that […]

Miguel Salas 16 fev 2022, 15:51

Via Sin Permiso

It is urgent for someone to show up in Hispanic literature and dares to update the Valleinclanesque works and portray for posterity the grotesque nature of this reality that shames us. The combination of corruption, lack of scruples and ethics, the hidden powers that impose their conditions, the absence of alternative projects that excite the people are the reflection of a kind of end of an era that we still do not know where it will go, but the explosive accumulation of conflicts is evident.

The labor reform, which should have been one of the star measures of the legislature, ended up being an absurdity, a gibberish and an absurdity, and there was a bit of everything in the parliamentary session of February 3. An issue as decisive as this one found a scenario in which some fail to deliver what they promise, those who seemed to be friends cease to be so, former enemies reconcile, others betray and, in the end, an unforeseen actor appears on the scene and decides the outcome. A strange case -this could be the title of the play- Valle Inclán would say that “The tragic sense of Spanish life can only be given with a systematically deformed aesthetics”.

The Government, divided in the previous negotiation process, reached an agreement with the employers and the CCOO and UGT unions. We analyze the pros and cons of this agreement in Sin Permiso, recognizing the advances in the field of collective bargaining and in the measures against precariousness and temporality, but bearing in mind that the government skipped its promise to repeal the PP’s reform and, therefore, left in the catbird’s cage, important measures imposed by the PP, such as the reduction in the amount of dismissal, the power of companies to continue deciding on restructuring processes, the elimination of processing wages or the prevalence of regional agreements over state agreements.

The agreement had to be validated in Parliament, which meant that the necessary majority had to be reached. The Government perhaps thought that a reform supported by the CEOE would weaken the arguments of the right wing. Wrong! Also that, as CCOO and UGT were in agreement, the other left-wing forces would have no choice but to support it. Another mistake! Already during the whole previous negotiation process, the so-called investiture bloc, the left-wing, pro-sovereignty and pro-independence forces that have been giving parliamentary support to the Government, were ignored. Other trade union forces with enormous weight in their communities, such as the Basque Country and Galicia, were also ignored. If, in addition, the PP reform of 2012 was not repealed, the conflict was served.

When something does not start well, it is easy for it not to end well. In certain parties and trade union organizations it is difficult to recognize that bipartisanship is out of fashion, that there are different nationalities in the Spanish State and different options and sensitivities that must be taken into account and that it is necessary to work to reach agreements. Agreements do not work. It soon became clear that the agreement was not so historic and that the conditions imposed by the CEOE of not touching a comma of the agreement would make it even more difficult to reach a sufficient majority. What could be negotiated if it was not possible to modify anything? It is already more than questionable that the Parliament, where national sovereignty is said to reside, cannot amend a law presented to it. Thus, those who are not elected by the people imposed their conditions on the agreement – in their own words, keeping the most important issues of the PP reform – and, subsequently, making sure that the Parliament did not change anything. The vote was 175 yeses to 174 noes, thanks to a PP deputy making a mistake.

Failure of variable geometry

The PSOE’s thinking heads revived the idea, always cherished, of an agreement with Ciudadanos to which to add other right-wing forces, such as the PDCAT, what is left of the Catalan pujolism, or even the UPN, the old reactionary and centralist Navarre. Let us remember that the elections already had to be repeated in 2019 because Sánchez preferred to make a pact with C,s rather than with Unidas Podemos, ignoring the socialist militancy, which shouted “Not with Rivera!”. Finally, the ballot boxes left him no choice but to reach an agreement with Unidas Podemos and the support of what is being called the investiture bloc (ERC, PNV, Bildu, Más País, Compromís, Teruel Existe). It was another occasion -the brains thought- to try again. And the task was entrusted to Félix Bolaños, current Minister of the Presidency, the same person who reaped the resounding failure of the Murcia operation (an attempt to unseat the PP in the region through a PSOE-C.s agreement, which triggered elections in Murcia and in Madrid, with Ayuso’s victory). Well, he has done it again!

What could be negotiated with the PNV and the left, if not a comma could be touched? Either they accepted the trágala or nothing. And it was nothing. So the PSOE, and behind all the Government, of course, changed allies and went to look for votes on the right (C,s, PDCat and UPN). Some were loyal and others betrayed them (as also happened in Murcia), and the disaster would have been even greater if a PP deputy had not made a mistake. In other words, a 21st century Valle Inclán is needed.

What there is no doubt about is that the only possible governability, the only real parliamentary majority is that of the investiture bloc. All other options are fictitious and, moreover, divide and weaken the left, and what is needed to confront the right is to fulfill the commitments with the voters, to dismantle the neoliberal and antidemocratic framework imposed by Rajoy’s PP, to work and collaborate with the allies and thus strengthen the left, sovereigntist and pro-independence bloc.


As is inevitable in this regime, important political or economic operations carry with them some or many elements of corruption. The king emeritus has given good lessons; with the “tamayazo” the PP bought two socialist deputies in order to maintain its power in the Community for almost 30 years; the PP has been condemned several times for corruption and with numerous trials pending; the Convergencia de Pujol has practically disappeared because of its 3% commissions; the Murcia deputies of C,s who were bought by the PP to avoid losing the government of the Community; the Andalusian socialists who were convicted for the abuse of the ERE, and now the two deputies of UPN, also bought by the PP, and perhaps by Vox, as both groups knew they were going to vote against skipping the agreement of the leadership of their party.

There is no doubt that the main responsibility lies with the corrupted party and the one who buys it, but, knowing the political life of the right wing, what happened was not unforeseeable. The same UPN deputies played cat and mouse during the voting day, but the exchange of cards made by the socialist leaders is also irresponsible. Because that supposed vote that did not materialize was promised in exchange for the Socialists not to reprove the mayor of Pamplona (of UPN) for some embarrassing statements in the style of Vox against young immigrants, and in exchange for 27 million of investment for the city. In other words, in order to please the CEOE they could not change a comma of the agreement, but they could offer “compensations” to gather some votes.

And to make the show complete, the deputy who made a mistake in the vote, Alberto Casero, is not a simple deputy on foot, he is responsible for organization of the PP, right hand of the second in command, Teodoro García Egea, and, of course, as a good leader of the PP, he has a pending court case for alleged prevarication in public contracts when he was mayor of Trujillo, between 2011 and 2019. The circle seems to close: something smells rotten, as the English bard would say.

It could be repealed

The alleged pressure from the European Union has been used to defend the limited content of the agreed reform, a condition to receive part of the promised European funds. But the EU pressure was limited to the issues of hiring and temporality, not to the rest of what the CEOE has managed to maintain. And yet it could have been repealed, it could have gone further. Both the trade union organizations (some as important as ELA, LAB or CIG, or others like CGT) and the parliamentary left wanted to improve the agreement, they wanted to comply with what the Government had promised. Even Más País and Compromís, who voted in favor, did so declaring that the agreement was not to their entire satisfaction.

The deputy of Bildu, Oskar Matute, in his parliamentary intervention collected the proposals that would have allowed the agreement. He proposed from the rostrum: “To recover and establish the prevalence and priority of application of the provincial and regional collective agreements and agreements, together with the legal protection of the regional interprofessional agreements wherever they exist […] that the necessary administrative authorization be incorporated into this law in the event of collective dismissals or employment regulation proceedings. The workers of PCB, of Tubacex, of Arcelor, of Arnova and of hundreds and hundreds of companies know very well what I am talking about. […] We proposed to specify, within the framework of this law or reform, a review and modification of the causality and procedures of dismissal, as well as of the processes of substantial modification of working conditions, so that the reasons of economic, technical and organizational causes are no longer wielded once and for all as the drawer or attic where they can put the rights and the lives of the workers to continue optimizing their corporate profits. […] incorporate in the text the recovery of the compensation for unfair dismissal of forty-five days and a ceiling of forty-two monthly payments, what it was before the reform of 2012. […] to recover the processing salaries for unfair dismissals, so that no worker is blackmailed in a long judicial process”.

These are concrete and possible proposals, and there was a parliamentary majority to do so, but it has not been done, perhaps because the voice of the CEOE outweighs any parliament or the needs of thousands and thousands of affected workers. And not only that: it has been learned that the head of the CEOE, Garamendi, assured the PNV that they accepted the prevalence of the regional agreement over the state one, one of the conditions that would have allowed the favorable vote of the PNV and perhaps of other political forces, but it seems that the PSOE preferred to continue playing the game with C,s. The opposite of a policy that could strengthen the left, trade unionism and also the same investiture bloc.

Will the judges decide?

We may never know if the Freudian slip of the PP deputy was intentional or not, since they knew that the UPN deputies were going to vote against, but the right-wingers are still on the vine and want the judges to decide for the Parliament, for the Government and for the social agents. Attention! Anything can happen with this grotesque scenario.

Is it necessary to remember that it was the Constitutional Court who brushed aside the Catalan Statute? Is it necessary to say that in these weeks the judges intend to cut the regulation that the Government had prepared on the housing law, even before it was discussed in Parliament? Or perhaps remember the sentences on the rapists of the herd? Let us not forget that at the time the PP boasted that it controlled from behind some of the chambers of the Constitutional Court. Let us not undervalue neither the Judiciary nor those who claim to control it.

Looking ahead

The events surrounding the labor reform have left a bad taste and mistrust. Those who support it have to accept that things have not gone the way they wanted, and although they continue to sing its praises, it will not be an easy road. Laws can help, but without pressure and mobilization it will not get very far. And that is what all the left and trade unionism will have to do, and in order to continue dismantling the policies of the PP we will have to continue fighting, however complicated it may be after what has happened.

But we must also stop accusing and threatening the other (as unfortunately is being done in some social networks) and put back on the table the problems and decisions that are pending, which are not few: housing law, repeal of the Gag Law (will this one be repealed?), the dialogue table with Catalonia, the ecological transition, the application of European funds, combating social inequality and gender violence against women, what to do with the monarchy and open a republican perspective. And all this needs the investiture bloc. The Communes in Catalonia threatened to withdraw parliamentary support (which was basically in the Budgets) to the Government of the Generalitat. What do they want, that ERC threatens to withdraw from the investiture bloc?

Although they sometimes appear hidden in everyday reality, the background of the polarization and the numerous conflicts in Spanish society has to do with the weakness of the political regime and its lack of answers for the majority. The right-wingers shout and shout and poison the political climate because they want to give a more neoliberal and anti-democratic turn; some left-wingers tie themselves to the current monarchic regime thinking that it is better to hold on than to look for a more democratic, republican and effective exercise of rights… And yet, what can allow a favorable turn for the working classes is to open a perspective of social and democratic change. To this it would be worthwhile to dedicate and unite all efforts.

Parlamentares do Movimento Esquerda Socialista (PSOL)


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