Gonzalez proposes recession-beating pact

THE Spanish government, and union and employers' representatives began a first round of talks yesterday aimed at reaching a 'social pact' to brake the spiralling jobless rate and tackle an unexpectedly deep recession. The Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, made such a pact his priority after narrowly winning last month's elections and forming a minority government.

His aim is to get all social sectors in agreement for a three- year pact to start next January. Failure to do so, political analysts believe, could bring down his Socialist government and force new elections.

Taking part in the meeting at the Economy Ministry were the new ministers of Economy and Labour, Pedro Solbes and Jose Antonio Grinan, the leaders of the two big union federations, Nicolas Redondo of the General Workers' Union and Antonio Gutierrez of the Workers' Comissions as well as Jose Maria Cuevas, head of the Employers' Federation.

The government, desperate to cut a public deficit expected to reach 5 per cent of GDP this year, hopes to reach a compromise between the unions' refusal to see of social welfare cuts and industry's insistence on more flexible labour legislation to make Spain competitive within Europe.

The employers say workers have been mollycoddled during 11 years of Mr Gonzalez's Socialist Party rule and that the right to strike or picket, dismissal benefits and high unemployment payments have been discouraging productivity. 'Moonlighting' - having two jobs, or one 'unofficial' job while collecting dole money - is considered by many workers as almost a basic civil right.

Employers' figures released this week showed strikes and work hours lost were down 22 per cent in the first half of this year compared with the first six months of 1992. That was hardly something to celebrate, however, since this year's first-half figure was 1,014 strikes and 15.5 million work hours lost.

The unions are reluctant to cede any of the rights they have built up over the years and have warned Mr Gonzalez against cutting pensions or unemployment benefits. The government's Catch 22 is how to reduce the spiralling deficit without doing so. Mr Gonzalez and his ministers have been putting out contradictory signals. Essentially, however, they have made it clear they must at least 'contain' public spending. Since the jobless figure is still rising, that seems to imply social welfare cuts along the line.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Installation Teams

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Campaign Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role incorporates a mix of ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant

competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our di...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Did you know? 98% of our directors started with SThree as...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen