Spain’s national trade union centers CC.OO and UGT together brought 1,8 million people onto the streets in 57 cities on February 19 to protest government labour legislation which dramatically weakens collective bargaining and workplace protection and facilitates redundancies. Rammed through by decree on February 10, the “reform” package abolishes the mandatory 45 days severance pay for each year worked, reducing it to 33 days with a two-year limit for dismissed workers on permanent contracts; weakens or eliminates employer requirements in cases of individual and mass dismissals; allows employers to unilaterally modify hours, days, overtime requirements and pay; paves the way for the massive invasion of individual contracts in both the public and private sectors; and encourages recourse to abusive ‘part-time’ and training contracts, among other measures.
Spain’s unemployment is officially at 23%, the highest for any developed country, with youth unemployment twice as high. The unions have denounced the new labour law as the biggest attack on worker rights since the restoration of democracy in Spain – and are planning renewed demonstrations on February 29 to coincide with a European-wide mobilization against the austerity measures being promoted by the banks, with the European Commission and the IMF as enforcers. The unions have also joined together with dozens of NGOs in a platform for the defense of public services and the welfare state.