What are political parties offering workers in the Spanish elections?

On 20 December, general elections will be held in Spain, amidst a climate marked by the fallout of the Paris attacks and the pro-independence debate in Catalonia, with a profusion of televised debates but no more than superficial coverage of the parties’ election manifestos.

The People’s Party (PP) is presenting the fall in the number of people unemployed by 27,000 in November as an endorsement of its economic management, and above all its labour market reform.

Whilst some macroeconomic indicators may favour the Rajoy government, other aspects of its management are less encouraging, such as the fall in employment, wage stagnation and the rise in poverty.

The election manifesto of the ruling party includes reducing the social contributions paid by workers and companies, and the promotion of indefinite employment contracts.

Its main efforts are geared towards self-employed workers and entrepreneurs. The measures include greater social protection with the payment of benefits to those terminating their activity, and the implementation of the “cash VAT” system, under which VAT payments can be settled after the amounts invoiced have been received rather than before.

The PP has also identified closing the gender pay gap as a priority, as announced by the Deputy Secretary of Sectorial Action, Javier Maroto, following a meeting with leaders of the CCOO and UGT trade union centres in November.

As for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), its manifesto is centred on shifting towards a “knowledge society” and the repeal of the labour market reform, one of its most emphatic pledges.

Although the party’s leader, Pedro Sánchez, said in October that he would preserve the current severance pay model, he has since been forced by internal and external pressure to commit to a total repeal of the law.

Other objectives identified by the PSOE include restoring the centrality of collective bargaining, drawing up a new Workers’ Statute, reducing the types of employment contract to three (indefinite, temporary and replacement or training), and increasing pay, which it pledges to do by raising the minimum wage to 60 per cent of the median net wage.

The PSOE is also proposing a new unemployment protection scheme restoring cover for unemployed people aged over 45 – excluded when the age was raised to 55 following the PP reform of 2012 – which would allow them to receive a subsidy until they find work or they can retire and receive a pension.


Ciudadanos: own labour reform

Ciudadanos (Citizens - Cs), a new centre-right party with great electoral expectations, promises to “rebuild the middle class devastated by the crisis” in its election manifesto. It insists that its proposals are “neither left nor right wing, just common sense”.

Amongst them are a “programme against long-term unemployment” based on “training cheques” and a “more efficient job search service and personalised advice”, a single indefinite contract with severance pay based on length of service, and a reduction in social contributions for companies.

Its job loss insurance scheme – a form of savings account into which the employer would pay a percentage of the worker’s wage – is a shift towards an individualised unemployment protection mechanism, based on capitalisation rather than distribution, in the same vein as the Austrian model.

And as an alternative to both a rise in the minimum wage or a basic income, the party led by Albert Rivera is proposing a guaranteed annual income supplement for the lowest wages, which would be paid out of taxpayers’ contributions. All these measures imply that Cs would carry out its own labour reform.


Proposals from the left

On the left of the political spectrum there is also the new party, Podemos, and the coalition between green and left-wing parties Unidad Popular-Izquierda Unida-Verdes. The star proposal presented by the latter, and its leader Alberto Garzón, is the Guaranteed Work Plan, based on the creation of jobs in three areas: care work, public services and the green economy.

It would allocate €15 billion in public spending to implement the plan. The Levy Institutehas dedicated years to developing this economic alternative, which Greece’s Deputy Minister of Labour, Rania Antonopoulos, set in motion following the victory of Syriza, to counter the effects of “austericide”.

The coalition also wants to open a public debate on the maximum wage (€6,500 a month), to restore severance pay of 45 working days for each year worked, and to establish equal parental leave for men and women.

Podemos, in its programme of 360 measures drawn up on a participatory basis, promises to repeal the labour market reform and bring the retirement age back down to 65.

It is also proposing a measure similar to Ciudadanos’ unemployment insurance, the common unemployment insurance scheme, to supplement the benefits received from the state scheme. In contrast to Ciudadanos, it favours a rise in the minimum wage, the restoration of collective bargaining rights and the regulation of overtime.

The main parties agree on the need for measures to achieve a better work-life balance.

With transparency and the fight against corruption figuring among the key issues for voters in these elections, fulfilment of the electoral promises and scrutiny of the parliament’s and government’s work will be followed more closely than ever before.

Polétika, an initiative launched by 150 civil society organisations as a tool for ensuring political pressure and citizen information to improve the quality of democracy, as well as the fight against extreme inequality and social exclusion, will be monitoring the parties’ fulfilment of the pledges made to Spanish citizens over recent months.

The poll average for 20 December points to a weakened PP, which, should it win the elections, will require parliamentary support or perhaps, even, a coalition government for the next four years. This will undoubtedly imply new developments for Spain’s workers.


This article has been translated from Spanish.