Rajoy wants quick job on labor market reform

Premier-elect tells labor union and business leaders he wants deal in New Year

Spanish Prime Minister-elect Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday met with labor union leaders and the head of the CEOE business group to urge them to agree rapid reforms to Spain's misfiring labor market. Close to five million people, equivalent to a fifth the workforce, are currently unemployed.

Rajoy met individually with the secretary general of the CCOO union, Ignacio Fernández Toxo and with Juan Rosell, the chairman of the CEOE. He was due at press time to receive the secretary general of UGT, Cándido Méndez.

The premier-in-waiting underscored the need to speed up existing talks on "basic points" of the reform, which Rajoy has made one of the pillars of his mandate. These points include collective bargaining, absenteeism, labor contract models and arbitration to resolve disputes, which he wants to see materialize into concrete proposals or agreements by early January.

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Toxo said Rajoy, who has maintained a very low profile since his conservative Popular Party won an absolute majority in general elections on November 20, rejects the idea of a single, one-fit labor contract. "He is aware Spain needs different contract models," the labor leader said. Rajoy emphasized the reforms are a question of "urgency" to tackle unemployment.

Rosell also said the reforms were of "extreme" necessity. "There are agreements in principle, and what is needed is for things to be done rapidly so that the new government does what it has to do," preferably with an agreement between employers and unions, he said.

The unions and business are due to meet jointly with Rajoy after he is sworn in as prime minister, which is expected to be on December 20.

The outgoing Socialist government had introduced watered-down reforms to the labor markets earlier this year after the CEOE backed out of an agreement in principle with the unions in the wake of the pro-business PP's strong showing in regional and municipal elections in May.

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