It was today’s spectacle. Bildu, Podemos and PSOE signed an agreement in which they agreed on the “complete repeal” of previous prime minister Rajoy’s labor reform. Two months before the Basque elections, PSOE sends a signal to the PNV: it can become the cornerstone of a PSOE government… or help Bildu if PNV stops supporting Sánchez in race for the central elections. And at the same time, the PSOE sends a wink to ERC to get it back into the parliamentary majority. But this brilliant move is soon over. The Ministry of Economy panicked and the employers’ association is furious. PSOE launches a statement “clarifying” that the repeal will not be complete nor will it be a repeal. Podemos feels betrayed, Bildu plays it down and takes it for granted. What is left of the repeal of the labor reform?
According to the PSOE’s memo, the following will be repealed: the possibility of job termination due to absenteeism caused by sick leave – something that has already been repealed since February and approved by Parliament in March -, the time limitations of collective agreements (in other words, the ultra-activity of the agreements will come back), and the priority given to single company agreements over sector-wide agreements, a priority which had already almost completely ceased to be applied. What the note wants to emphasize is precisely what it does not say: they do not intend to touch either cheap layoffs or to put an end to massive subcontracting. And these conform the real core of Rajoy’s labor reform.
Rajoy’s labor reform in 2012 had two basic goals: the first was to prevent the crisis from wiping out less capitalized industries by allowing them to pay below collective bargaining terms while “getting through the storm”; the second was to reduce the cost of labor power renewal by making the cost of layoffs low enough to make it profitable to fire “expensive” workers with previously acquired rights and pre-crisis wages and then hire others with lower wages. […]
Rajoy’s labor reform and the precariousness it engendered are a demand of capital. These measures almost automatically reduce wages when the conditions of capital as a whole (expressed through the market) change. They have served to lower the share of wages in production. They have driven down the wages of the workers (coupled with the rise in the wages of corporate executives and managers) under the guise of a rise in the minimum wage. And, they still hope that, to top it off, they will make national capital more resilient in the coming recessions, automating our impoverishment when capital is in even more urgent need of breathing space. All without the need to pass new “special laws” that might generate a social response. How are they going to give up?
Why do they say derogation when they mean more precariousness?
But why use the term “repeal” then? An excess of enthusiasm? Probably one of the half-truths that characterize the PSOE’s style of beautifully dressing what are nothing but attacks on our living and working conditions. In his inaugural speech, Sánchez had promised a new Workers’ Statute. His idea is a new labor reform, this one comprehensive, which when approved -as any law that regulates something already legislated- would automatically repeal the labor reform of Rajoy.
But what will be the axis of the new reform? According to Sánchez himself, the regulation of the “platform economy”, the ultra-precarization of Glovo and Deliveroo-like companies. According to the Labor Minister, applying to them the category of “dependent self-employed”, that is, making companies pay the self-employment fee, a practice that until now was only extended among labor cooperatives: free dismissal, a probably minimal fee and no commitment to a minimum workload. The dream of precarization, a radical version of the British “zero hour contracts”, legalized to “attend to the situation of riders”, which would probably be extended to all sectors due to its advantages for companies.
The social-democratic discourse, always very attentive to favoring new monopolies in which capital can find its placements, tells us that “regulation is the solution” for the workers. It is actually trying to peddle the extension of worse conditions of exploitation as an exercise in solidarity that would benefit the workers themselves. We all remember Sánchez as a champion of the generalization of time-keeping that he sold us as a “day record” promising us that it would reduce unpaid hours. Surprise! It increases unpaid hours. And we can? But if the PSOE-Podemos “municipalities of change” have been the first promoters of the “cycle-logistics”!
Why they won’t repeal Rajoy’s labor reform
A critical moment is coming for Spanish capital. In order to resume accumulation, recover what was lost during the pandemic and overcome the tendency to crisis that already suffocated it before the pandemic, it needs massive transfers of income from labor to capital. But at the same time it needs to keep “social peace”. Sanchism and its ” social justice” represent a peculiar way of combining both things… based on cheap layoffs and precarization enshrined in the current labor reform. Sanchism needs Rajoy’s labor reform to do its alchemy so that, for example, each rise in the minimum wage reduces the total wage bill received by the workers. And if he were to repeal it, it would be in order to re-enunciate it under a different name… and with the same substance.