Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE government managed to secure congressional support for long-awaited labour reform on Thursday that not only aims to undo the policy of the previous PP government but was demanded by Brussels in order to release European recovery funds.
Sanchez managed to push through the reform with support from the centrist-liberal Ciudadanos party and some other centre-right lawmakers, but the congressional arithmetic was incredibly tight and in the end the reforms were backed with a majority of just one vote — 175 in favour and 174 against in the 350-seat chamber.
Led by Podemos Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, the reforms are an attempt to resolve the rampant insecurity in Spain’s labour market, which has the highest number of temporary contracts in Europe, and improves working conditions and creates training and apprenticeship schemes for young workers up to the age of 30.
Although Díaz had successfully steered the bill through hard-fought negotiations between the government, business leaders and trade unions, it still needed parliamentary approval.
But getting the numbers in Congress proved difficult for the minority-coalition government – Sanchez’s Socialists and hard-left coalition partner Podemos – not getting support from key allies they have relied on in the past to force through legislation, notably Basque and Catalan independence parties, which voted against.
The right-wing opposition Popular Party and far-right Vox both voted against the reforms, however it has since emerged that the vote was, incredibly, tipped accidentally in the government’s favour by an unknowing PP deputy.
The one vote majority was gifted to the government due to a “computer error” by the PP deputy and he had in fact meant to vote against the reform. It was an “anomaly” and should be “rectified”, party spokesperson Cuca Gamarra insisted.
Although reforming the Rajoy government’s much-maligned 2012 labour bill was a campaign promise of Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE, it is impossible to ignore that the €140bn COVID-19 financial stimulus package promised by Brussels was conditional on tangible reform of the Spanish labour market.