Yesterday in Spain all TV news programs devoted an unusual amount of space to the “referendum” at Desigual regarding the reduction of working hours. They insisted that “the reduction in salary is shared equally between the workers and the company”. Yes, they are peddling a model and yes, there is a catch. From Japan to the U.S. via Ireland, France and Great Britain, the so-called “recovery” is being accompanied by a reduction in workers’ incomes dressed up in different ways. Reduced working hours is just one of them.
Supply crisis in Britain, closed gas stations, empty shelves, electricity sector bankruptcies, meat sector on the brink of collapse. Waste and unnecessary shortages are rampant everywhere as the contradictions of capital become exacerbated.
In an interview on TVE this Monday, Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calviño guaranteed that the minimum wage increase in 2021 will be approved this October and will not have retroactive effects. Yesterday, Tuesday, newspapers opened with the angry complaints of the doctrinaire petty bourgeoisie who, together with the employers’ association flatly refuse any rise in the lowest wages given the lower profitability of their own capital. Meanwhile, the labor minister promised that she would “bring employers and unions together” during September. What lies beneath the fuss, and what real impact will it have on wages?
The increase in the minimum wage in both Amazon and Target was accompanied by the reduction of working hours as well as the elimination of both health insurance and bonuses…which meant that workers’ real hourly earnings were actually reduced despite the wage hike. And it’s even worse. In the U.S. economy as a whole, inflation has already eaten into wage growth. And what is coming with the Green Deal is more of the same.
The low volume of the “recovery” funds turns them into a mere cover of the “austerity” promoted by the EU, with all that it means for the workers as a forced reduction of the general exploitation costs of the labor power: less healthcare services, education, social cohesion, etc. But this “austerity”would remain a mere appetizer for the general offensive against workers’ conditions implied by the “reforms” aimed at by this “recovery fund”.
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.
Along with the recession, a period of direct attacks on our working, retirement and general living conditions is opening up. Wages, pensions and working conditions will be in the front line. It is more important than ever not to fall into the traps that attempt to make us support the production of dividends at the expense of our vital needs, be it in the name of “reconstruction”, “social justice” or “climate change”.