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Cablegate: Spanish Elections: Labor Perspective

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000789

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH ELECTIONS: LABOR PERSPECTIVE

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

Summary

1. (SBU) With the economy doing well, unemployment is
nonetheless a prominent issue in the campaign for the March
14 general elections, and remains one of the principal
concerns of Spaniards. The Popular Party, having halved
Spain's unemployment rate from over 22% to 11.2% in eight
years, is portraying itself as the party of proven job
creation. The Socialist opposition and the unions,
particularly the UGT, are focusing instead on the precarious
nature of some of the new jobs. They emphasize that 31% of
the jobs in Spain are on temporary contract, more than double
the EU average. The other major national union
confederation, CCOO, has been more muted than the UGT in its
criticism of the PP. PP candidate Rajoy promises two
million new jobs by 2008 and full employment, with a 6%
unemployment rate, by 2010. While the unions do not
formally endorse candidates, the UGT has publicly allied
itself with the Socialists. End Summary.

UGT Views

2. (U) On February 5, leaders of the General Worker's Union
(UGT-traditionally allied with the Socialists), one of
Spain's two large union confederations, held a conference to
spell out the union's agenda before the March 14 general
elections. The leader of the Left Union (IU/Communist)
party, Gaspar Llamazares, and Socialist Party (PSOE) National
Coordinator Jose Blanco attended. The PP was reportedly
invited but did not attend.

3. (U) UGT Secretary General Candido Mendez argued that in
the eight years of the Aznar government, the PP had
"squandered" Spain's economic growth and neglected social
spending. Mendez drew particular attention to the fact that
31% of Spanish workers are on temporary contract, a figure at
least two times above the EU average. Mendez said many of
the jobs created during the PP mandate were "precarious" and
lacking in benefits. Workers in such contracted jobs are
under-trained, over-worked, and prone to work-related
accidents, Mendez said. Mendez said this precarious
employment exploits workers and ultimately lowers Spain's
competitiveness. Mendez also criticized the Aznar
government for under-investing in research and development in
new technologies. Mendez argued that much of the job growth
in the PP years was due to growth in Europe and worldwide,
rather than to PP policies.

CCOO Views

4. (SBU) Comisiones Obreras (CCOO ) originally allied with
the Communist party but now independent and center-left)
union officials share UGT's concerns on the need to shift
more workers from temporary to permanent contracts.
However, CCOO representatives noted to us that it was the
Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez, rather than the PP,
that had set up the rules governing temporary workers in the
first place. It is, they say, therefore disingenuous for
the Socialists to criticize a system that they set up. CCOO
reps were more impartial in their party preferences and told
us that CCOO can work with the PP as well as PSOE. If the
PP wins, CCOO would prefer that it not be by absolute
majority. They believe that the PP was more flexible and
open to dialogue in the first Aznar term, when was forced to
compromise to hold its coalition together.

5. (SBU) CCOO reps were also critical of the PSOE economic
plan. They regard Socialist candidate Zapatero's proposed
tax policy as regressive, especially considering he is from
the left. They also do not see the budget numbers adding
up. Zapatero has pledged to keep close to a balanced
budget, but CCOO sees PSOE pledges for greater spending
combined with tax cuts adding up to budgetary problems.

PP Platform: Proven Job Creation

6. (U) Labor was a key issue in the electoral program the
PP unveiled at their February 14-15 National Convention. PP
candidate Mariano Rajoy promised 2 million new jobs by 2008
and a drop in the unemployment rate to 8% (from 11.2% at
present). The platform also called for reaching full
employment, which the PP sees as a 6% unemployment rate, by
2010.

Socialist and Left Union Views

7. (U) On the campaign trail, Zapatero has repeatedly
stressed the need to transform the precarious temporary jobs
into "dignified" jobs. The Left Union (IU)'s Llamazares has
made this a frequent refrain as well. Zapatero's proposal
to achieve this is to offer incentives to employers who offer
full-time contracts.

Comment

8. (SBU) The election campaign is occurring in the absence
of any generalized labor strife. (There have been isolated,
and at times violent, protests by redundant ship workers from
the Izar firm, but these are not election-related and not
typical of the overall labor situation.) While UGT support
for the Socialists is clear, UGT is not convoking workers out
to the streets to protest against the PP. After the general
strike of June 2002, the Aznar government backed off on labor
reforms and avoided antagonizing the unions. As a result,
while unemployment remains a key issue, the role of the
unions in the campaign has been, for the most part, marginal.

ARGYROS

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