We approach this May Day with an ambivalent feeling. On the one hand, having gone through an intense period of negotiations and agreements that have led to the recovery and improvement of labor rights. On the other, that all this is clouded by the serious situation caused by the war and its consequences. Perhaps unexpectedly, we have completed an intense process of dialogue and social agreement that – in contrast to an environment of extreme political tension – laid the foundations for Spain to overcome the enormous labor consequences of the pandemic, with unprecedented results.
There have been 13 agreements resulting from social dialogue: six of the ERTE of the pandemic, the teleworking agreements and the Rider Law adapting to the new labor realities of the 21st century, two SMI agreements until reaching the psychological barrier of 1,000 euros, two of the pensions, with the revaluation with the CPI and the rise in contributions for the first time in a democracy, and finally that of the Labor Reform. We can openly say that we are recovering and gaining rights. The containment of more than three million jobs with the ERTE placed our country in a better position to recover employment and activity when the pandemic restrictions were relaxed. For the first time, the drop in GDP translated into a significantly smaller drop in employment. Today we exceed 20 million contributors to Social Security.
The agreement for the labor reform signed between the Government, unions and employers has triggered the percentage of permanent contracts in an unknown dimension in the last four decades. A year 2022 was presented with a perspective of important economic growth that, accompanied by job creation with greater contractual stability, would have finished off an unprecedented labor management. Several mantras would have been broken about the need for the Spanish economy to devalue itself internally (especially wages) to deal with economic crises.
The increase in tax collection and the reformist action in the matter of pensions – recovering the revaluation according to the CPI and acting on the income structure of social security – supposed the antithesis to austerity policies. And all this with a very distant behavior of the European Union and different from the one it starred in as of 2011. However, the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine (in addition to the humanitarian consequences) has precipitated a deterioration of the global economic situation, which places our country once again in the face of some of its structural weaknesses. The rises in energy prices have contaminated the entire shopping basket to the point of placing inflation at 8.4%, which represents an intolerable erosion of wages in general, and of the lowest in particular.
In this context, UGT and CCOO put forward three central demands this May Day. The first has to do with wages, which cannot be further reduced. For this, we consider that the salary review clauses are the tool that make it possible to maintain their purchasing power and at the same time avoid any risk of an inflationary spiral in Spain. Moreover, we firmly believe that this risk does not exist. Rather, we believe that a wage devaluation would lead to a weakening of domestic demand, which would be a drag on the recovery of the economy.
We believe that temporary benefits should be enabled for people with lower incomes, to help them mitigate the increase in prices. The social and electrical bonds or the Minimum Vital Income, being positive measures, are clearly insufficient. There are 10 million people in our country with little income, for whom the current rise in prices implies, directly, not making ends meet. The Government has fallen short in protecting vulnerable groups and we demand more ambition in this area. Business organizations cannot pass the cost of price increases on the working class. The business community passes on costs to prices as shown by inflation (4.4% core inflation). If CEOE does not facilitate a negotiation of the agreements –after appropriating multimillion-dollar public resources– the mobilization scenario will be served.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The second demand has to do with controlling prices. The energy pricing system must be modified, preventing the crazy price of gas from determining the set of energy prices.
And finally, we must bet on measures that favor equality. Our society is going through multiple situations of exclusion or job insecurity, loss of life expectancies, insecurities and uncertainties in the face of profound economic and social mutations that are happening at great speed. Areas or territories that are perceived as aggrieved and far from modernization circuits.
This context partly explains the emergence of extreme right-wing political options, which seek to offer safe ports in rough seas and without reliable maps. And to offer those ports, they falsify old certainties giving them a reactionary and oppressive characterization. A certain way of understanding the homeland, gender roles, racial and sexual homogeneity, or security, would lead us to a hateful society, but it does not mean that this dystopia is not possible. Neo-fascism has been normalized in Spain and in other countries.
Faced with this reality, it is not possible to refer only to the discourse of fear. We must generate exciting alternatives for a better life, certainties, pedagogy and the battle for ideas. The collective organization of working people as empowered subjects in the improvement of labor rights, decent living conditions, social protection, public services (which create public awareness, in the words of Luis García Montero) are material bases and awareness necessary to defend democracy and the dignity of life of the social majorities. For that, also for that reason, we are going to the streets this May Day.