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Cablegate: Labor Leader Skeptical On Zapatero

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 002303


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2014

Classified By: Political Counselor Kathleen Fitzpatrick per 1.4 (b) and

1. (C) Pol/Labor officer spoke June 16 with Jose Maria
Fidalgo, Secretary General of Spain's largest trade union
confederation, CCOO (Comisiones Obreras). Fidalgo expressed
a cautious, wait-and-see attitude toward the Zapatero
government. He said he was not yet convinced of Zapatero's
seriousness. Zapatero has made many promises on such issues
as shifting more workers from part time contracts to full
time employment. However, his government has not yet taken
any concrete steps to deal with the problem. On this and
other matters, there is the need to move from talk to action,
Fidalgo said. He noted he had maintained cordial relations
with Aznar, but the relationship had become strained in the
final Aznar years. (He attributed this to Aznar becoming
more arrogant and isolated in his second term.)

2. (C) Fidalgo criticized both Zapatero and, in particular,
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jesus Caldera, for not
knowing how to govern. He said they are acting as if they
were still in the opposition or still campaigning. They
don't know how to manage; all they seem to know how to do is
give speeches. This, he observed, contrasts with the
Popular Party, which still acts like it is governing and does
not know how to act in opposition. Fidalgo attributed the
confusion on both sides to the fact that neither the PP nor
the PSOE thought the PSOE would win the March 14 elections.
As a result, neither leadership is prepared for the roles
they now occupy. (Fidalgo commented that there was no doubt
in his mind that the March 11 Madrid terror attacks had
thrown the election to the PSOE. He said that when people
are frightened and confused, they opt for the easy solution,
and that is what the PSOE offered.)

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3. (SBU) Fidalgo told us that the CCOO Director for
International Affairs, Javier Doz, had recently met AFL-CIO
President Sweeney in Geneva. (Note: We invited Doz to
participate in an International Visitors program this fall
and he has accepted.) Fidalgo said the CCOO would like to
expand its contacts with the AFL-CIO, which, he said, had
previously kept the CCOO at arms length. Fidalgo commented
that the CCOO had added over 200,000 new members in the past
five years and that its position and finances were solid.
He noted that the unions had demonstrated their strength in
June 2002 when they convoked a general strike and compelled
the Aznar government to back off on measures that would have
established tight controls on unemployment benefits.

4. (SBU) Precarious (temporary contact) employment is
Spain's number one labor challenge, Fidalgo stated.
Thirty-one percent of employees are on temporary contracts, a
figure well above the EU average. Fidalgo said one of the
problems in making the temporary jobs permanent is their low
skill, low productivity nature. The GOS will have to
encourage business to invest more in these workers to raise
their productivity. Fidalgo said he is pressing the Zapatero
government to adopt a program of regular consultations with
the unions; he believes Zapatero will agree.

5. (C) Comment: While CCOO's origins are on the left (it
was originally linked with Spain's communist party) it has
adopted an increasingly pragmatic posture in recent years
under Fidalgo's leadership. Fidalgo made a point of
stressing to us his previous good relations with the Aznar
government, his skepticism about Zapatero's ability to
deliver on his promises, and his desire for improved ties
with the AFL-CIO. He did not mention Iraq. While the
other main national labor federation, UGT, is nominally
independent, in reality its leaders are all Socialists. It
was notable that Fidalgo expressed no sense of relief that a
government of the left was in power. Indeed, he was often
rolling his eyes as he discussed Zapatero. On foreign
policy, the CCOO, while highly critical of US policy in Iraq,
has been more moderate than the UGT. CCOO International
Affairs Director Doz told us he agreed the war in Afghanistan
was necessary. The UGT, by contrast, vehemently opposed US
action in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

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