Direct attacks on the conditions of permanent contracts and retirement

21 December, 2020

Demonstration against temporary layoffs in Motril, Granada.

Production figures, both industrial and services, are still in free fall: -8.8% and -14% respectively in October. The Bank of Spain is asking to extend temporary layoffs and guarantees to avoid a crisis of non-payment that would overtake the banks and precipitate the feared financial crisis. The reality for the workers is a massive loss of income and 600,000 fewer jobs of which only a third are expected to reappear in 2021. While large companies and capitals celebrate an almost daily orgy of aid and green investment in energy and automobiles, the government is preparing two shock reforms for workers.

1 A first strike at pensions: the payment of contributions in the pension calculation for those who are now 50 years old or younger, it will now extend backwards from 25 to 35 years. The result will be an average decrease of 5.5% of the amount received by retirees. And this is only a first step. The ideological bombardment to get us ready has been continuous for years. There is fear in the air: the surveys say that Spain is the country where the greatest number of active workers fear that the pension they will finally receive will not cover their vital needs. In any case, it will depend not only on the government’s plans, but also on the mobilization that we workers will be able to carry out in order to fight against the government’s game. In the state itself and its media apparatus, the first criticisms of this reform are already being heard, precisely because of its capacity to break social peace, the only threat they know about that can break the festival of precarization and the massive transfer of income from the mass of salaries to the profitability of capital.

2 But the truly novelty that has been pointed out since August and now emerges is the precarity-inducing assault on the contractual conditions of workers with permanent contracts. The idea is that overproduction has become chronic, but instead of manifesting itself mostly as a massive increase in stocks, it materializes as excesses in productive capacity. Excess over solvent markets, of course, not over general needs. What does the government propose? For temporary layoffs to become systematic… in exchange for companies increasing the percentage of permanent workers. That is, that permanent workers would become, in practice, discontinuous according to the famous needs of production. The state would give them training courses during the period in which they would receive from the state a minimum portion of their salary… to make it easier for companies to try their luck and find new niches with new products. Being a fixed employee would be more than ever an illusion, and the mass of salaries would be brutally reduced with every sales shock.

The government closes 2020 by charging head-on against the status of retirees and permanent workers. It is a warning of what is coming in 2021 and what they mean when they talk about reforms. These are not just any two groups of workers. Until now, government attacks have prioritized the new generations, changing the conditions of those entering the labor market. Thus, by dividing the working class generationally, it has been easier for them to generalize the precarization in all its forms without violent breaks, throwing on the working families the cost of basic social cohesion. But with the level of contradictions posed by the crisis in its current moment, it seems that it is no longer enough for them.

For Spanish capital, setting the conditions for a gradual increase in exploitation in absolute terms is no longer enough. Neither is it enough to let precariousness and the drop in wages have their effect on pensions. Not even Sánchez’s sophisticated system for reducing the wage bill by raising the minimum wage on the basis of maintaining cheap conditions of dismissal allows them to modify the general conditions of exploitation quickly enough. They need to directly attack the expectations and working conditions of the generation that is between 30 and 50 years old. In other words, they need to and will be attacking more and more openly, the most concentrated core of the working class.