Spain to approve collective bargaining reform next week

2nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Thursday his government will approve a reform of the collective bargaining system by June 10 even if there is no deal with unions by then.

Unions and employers have been negotiating for months over reform of the collective bargaining system, considered a crucial plank of labour, banking and pension reforms aimed at reviving the economy.

"Today it seems there will be new contacts (with unions); I sincerely hope we get to an agreement but if that is not the case on Friday the 10th (of June), the government will approve the reform of collective bargaining," the prime minister told public radio.

The reform "will be approved with or without agreement," he said.

The International Monetary Fund and the Bank of Spain believe the collective bargaining system, which includes industry-wide agreements that cannot be modified, is too rigid.

Spain, with an economy the size of the Greek, Irish and Portuguese economies combined, has been battling to convince markets that it should not be lumped together with the three lame ducks now under EU and IMF rescue terms.

The government has enacted reforms to strengthen bank balance sheets, cut state spending, make it easier to hire and fire workers, lower the retirement age and sell off assets.

It has promised to reduce the annual public deficit from 9.24 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 6.0 percent in 2011, 4.0 percent in 2012, 3.0 percent in 2011 and 2.1 percent in 2014.

The Spanish economy slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of the once-booming property market. It emerged with meagre growth in early 2010.

The crisis sent the unemployment rate soaring to 21.29 percent in the first quarter of 2011, the highest in the industrialised world.

© 2011 AFP

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