Spain: Heading towards a general strike?
20 February 2012
"First massive protest against labour law reform," headlines Spanish daily La Vanguardia, following demonstrations on Sunday in 57 cities protesting against labour law reform introduced by the government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Tens of thousands of people marched to the call of the major national trade unions, UGT and CCOO. It was the "first step towards an attack that could lead to a general strike," notes the Barcelona daily paper, for which this possibility would be "a serious mistake".
The government cannot and must not back down on this issue because it would endanger its credibility towards the European Union and financial markets which demand that Spain put an end to the strict labour laws that make it difficult for businesses to adapt to adverse economic conditions thus leading to higher unemployment than would be desirable.
For El País, however, "the success of yesterday's demonstrations is a warning that the government would be wrong to ignore". The paper approves the trade unions' "correct and moderate strategy" -
The question is whether this reform, imposed by Brussels and the markets, is the most adequate. What is clear, is that is has generated a climate of insecurity within large sections of the population.
Adopted on February 10, the reform will slash severance pay from 45 days per year worked in the firm to 33 days and only 20 days for those business that are in trouble, which is currently true of most Spanish businesses. Other provisions include tax breaks for businesses that hire and a one year trial period during which an employee can be fired without severance pay. It allows local labour agreements at the company level to override agreements made at the industry-level.