21 March, 2012
Spain’s two labour confederations, Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), have jointly called a 24-hour strike for 29 March in response to labour law reform which is already in force by decree-law of 10 February by the Council of Ministers and is pending of Parliamentarian validation.
On 9 March, CCOO’s and UGT’s executive councils, meeting jointly for the first time in history, agreed to the general strike following refusal of the ruling Popular Party to sit down and negotiate some 30 amendments to the draconian labour legislation, as proposed by the confederations.
The calling of the strike, which CCOO General Secretary Ignacio Fernández Toxo and UGT General Secretary Cándido Méndez termed “fair, inevitable and necessary,” is also aimed at planned austerity measures expected from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
On 30 March, the government is expected to release its 2012 budget that contains unprecedented public spending cuts of €35 billion as recommended by the European Union.
But it is the anti-social labour reforms that are chief reason behind the general strike, which was preceded by three days of action, the latest occurring on 11 March. The confederations are calling the reforms the biggest attack on labour law in Spain’s post-fascist democratic period.
Specifically, the legislation weakens collective bargaining on both the national and regional levels by giving precedence to company labour agreements, allows an employer to unilaterally reduce salaries for reasons of competitiveness and productivity, as well as giving bosses the liberty to unilaterally change working hours and labour terms.
It provides employers with opportunities to use “work-experience” contracts under which they can dismiss workers who have been employed for less than a year without granting compensation. It also cuts jobless benefits, makes layoffs easier, and promotes other forms of precarious work.
The general strike is the second in Spain since the advent of the 2008 financial crisis, with the first occurring in 2010 and will be the sixth general strike in Spain’s democratic period.