Minister cancels trip over protests

May 15 demonstrators storm employer's association involved in labor reform negotiations

Activists of the May 15 protest movement against Spain's political class scored a point on Friday when Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba postponed a visit to Valencia because of a planned protest at the hotel where he was scheduled to meet Socialist sympathizers.

The Valencian Socialists asked Rubalcaba ? who will likely be the party's candidate to run in next year's general elections ? to stay home "until things quiet down" after police on Thursday beat May 15 protesters, Jorge Alarte, head of the Socialist's regional branch, said.

Meanwhile, a small contingent of 15-M demonstrators ? who are also targeting Spain's ongoing economic crisis ? marched in front of the Labor Ministry to protest the government's labor reforms, which have so far failed to reduce the 21 percent jobless rate. Around 50 people (followed closely by around 50 journalists) chanted slogans such as "We need a strike now, now, now."

More information
Police beat May 15 protestors at Valencia swearing-in ceremony
May 15 movement packs its bags but plans mass march for June

Also on Friday, another 40 protesters stormed the headquarters of CEOE, the employers' association, to cries of "Hands up, this is a contract!" Demonstrators, who did not move beyond the lobby and protested peacefully, criticized the "abusive" conditions set by the CEOE during negotiations with the unions.

The labor reform, which seeks greater flexibility in the job market as part of a wider austerity plan, was taken a step further on Friday when the Cabinet approved a decree on labor force adjustment plans (known as EREs). Labor Minister Valeriano Gómez explained that businesses will be able to fire people on the basis of a forecast of transitory losses, instead of having to prove permanent and sustained losses as initially proposed. That first draft was widely viewed as an attempt to satisfy the unions at a time when pension reform was also being bitterly disputed. The final document does not regulate the definition of the economic, technical, organizational or production causes that would justify an ERE.

The Cabinet on Friday also approved a decree reforming the country's collective barging system after employers and unions failed to reach an agreement on the makeover. The decree sets the maximum period to negotiate a renewal of collective agreements of eight and 14 months, rather than 12 to 18, as initially proposed by the labor minister.

The decree has been widely criticized by unions, labor and opposition parties.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS