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Spain: How Left is the Left Government?


The Spanish economy is recovering. The new left-wing coalition wants workers to have more of it. The government is arguing about exactly how this should look.

At the Rambles in Barcelona, ​​souvenir sellers try to bring luminous plastic propellers to city visitors, and tourist groups move lazily towards the harbor. Miriam Suárez zigzags between them on the way to the next metro entrance. Like every day, she made six hours of beds, cleaned bathrooms, wiped hallways, now she just wants to go home. "I am ready every day," says the 38-year-old Ecuadorian, who works as a maid in a hotel on Barcelona's famous promenade, and massages her wrist. She earns 700 euros in her part-time job. In order to make ends meet, she rents out a room in her apartment.

The Spanish labor market has not recovered seven years after the severe economic crisis. Unemployment has dropped from 26 to just under 14 percent since 2013, but over a quarter of the contracts are temporary and 14 percent are part-time. At 1,944 euros, gross average earnings in Spain are well below the EU average, and a third of the employees earn less than 1,260 euros, according to the statistical office.

Spain's new government has promised social and economic reforms. At the first meeting of the Council of Ministers, the left-wing coalition between the Social Democrats and the left-wing alternative alliance, Unis Podemos, set a symbolic increase in the pension. In the coming months, she plans to raise the minimum wage to 60 percent of the average wage, increase taxes for high earners, and partially reverse the 2012 labor market reform. This scares entrepreneurs, says President of the Spanish employers' association CEOE, Antonio Garamendi.

These measures are long overdue, says hotel employee Suárez. "During the crisis, everything was shifted onto our shoulders," complains the Ecuadorian, "but the entrepreneurs were getting richer." She is particularly pleased about the planned withdrawal of the labor market reform. With the controversial package of measures, the then conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wanted to make the country crisis-compatible. It made it possible for employers to reduce wages when income was falling, to lay off employees at low cost, and relaxed industry-specific collective agreements.

The government is divided

For Miriam Suárez that meant less money. From one day to the next, the temporary employment agency she worked for no longer paid her as a maid, but as a cleaner - with 40 percent less salary, she says. Even when the economic data showed up again, the measures were retained. Some economists see this as the main reason why neither wages nor purchasing power have leveled off at pre-crisis levels in Spain.

Miriam Suárez pulls a green T-shirt with the imprint "Las Kellys" out of her handbag. Out of anger at the poor working conditions, she teamed up with colleagues to organize vigils, strikes and whistle concerts. The name of the organization stands for the initial syllables of las que limpian , "those who clean". The movement has been heard across Spain, especially among the left parties. As demanded by the Kellys, according to the coalition agreement, instead of company contracts, the industry collective agreements are to apply in principle, terminations due to the high level of sickness will become more expensive. Externalization could also be a thing of the past: companies may no longer be allowed to outsource their core competencies. Housekeeping, for example, would then basically be hotel employees - and should no longer be paid as cleaning staff.

"Some of our reforms will need clear majorities," said Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez after the first Council of Ministers. "But there are no insurmountable obstacles with the opposition." In fact, the planned social and economic reforms, especially the withdrawal of the labor market reform, are also controversial within his cabinet. The line of conflict runs along the parties, between traditional Social Democrats and the left-wing alliance Unidas Podemos. The small coalition partner provides four of 22 ministerial posts, including the new Minister of Labor Yolanda Díaz. The controversial labor lawyer from post-communist Izquierda Unida liked to show up in front row at Kellys' demonstrations and would rather abolish the labor law reform today than tomorrow.

Source: zeit

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