Unions and employers agree to protect jobs as Spanish unemployment tops 5 million
Spain is yet another country where austerity isn’t working. At the end of 2011, the number of unemployed in Spain had leapt to 23% or five and a quarter million (2.3 million of them out of work for over a year). 62% of the jobs lost in the last quarter of the year were young people’s, and the unemployment rate among 16-24 year olds is now a staggering 48%. The new right-wing Government has accelerated the previous socialist administration’s budget cuts: rising unemployment is the inevitable result. Meanwhile, the European Commission and politicians like Germany’s Angela Merkel blame Spanish youth unemployment rates on the strength of workers’ rights in the country, although temporary employment is also falling. Spanish union confederation leader Ignacio Toxo – also President of the ETUC – asked “Has Chancellor Merkel actually read the Spanish labour law?”
Toxo’s union confederation, CCOO, has reiterated the need to address finance sector reforms and a determined fight against fraud. This would provide credit to households and SMEs and increase state revenues which could deliver an adequate level of public investment and quality public services, and thus contribute to economic recovery. At European level, the CCOO and UGT – the other main Spanish union confederation – have urged the European Council meeting starting shortly to promote a European plan to boost economic growth and employment, increase the time limits for compliance with the deficit and debt targets and approve the necessary tools to resolve the European financial crisis – such as Eurobonds.
Spanish unions have also just negotiated a Second Employment Agreement for the years 2012-2014 to avoid job losses by encouraging negotiations over flexible working to maintain employment instead of redundancy (what the unions wrily call “external flexibility”) and moderating wage demands. Unions maintain that, with this voluntary agreement, further reform as promised by the new Government is unnecessary.
On Thursday, public service employees staged a series of demonstrations across Spain to protest against unemployment and increasing austerity measures.