It's been seven years since the labor reform was approved. And its protagonism does not yield. The unions have called on Friday an act to demand the Government to repeal several parts. Opposite, CEOE rejects that demand. The executive flirts one week and another does not change it. Only his parliamentary weakness prevents him: We can push and PDeCAT lowers the ambition of Pedro Sánchez. The PP and Citizens refuse to touch it.
But what are the consequences that still have that decree law of February 11, 2012? Was the accelerator of the collapse in the middle of recession or the labor balm for five years of employment growth? Are you behind wage devaluation and labor poverty? Has it expedited the negotiation of agreements or has it destroyed it? Has it permitted the deterioration of working conditions of groups such as kellys? Have you solved the high precariousness?
There are few consensuses, not even in the academy. EL PAÍS met four Spanish labor market scholars on Wednesday, two economists: the professor at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Gloria Moreno, and the researcher at Fedea Florentino Felgueroso; and two jurists: the professor of Labor Law of Complutense Jesús Lahera and the Professor of the University of Seville, Jesús Cruz. They agree that the labor reform has not put an end to precariousness. Disagree about whether he intended it or not. There is another point in common: "It was unbalanced", they point out, although with nuances. Lahera and Felgueroso see it "necessary".
When evaluating what happened, the two economists underline the difficulty due to the extreme situations in which it has developed: it was approved in February 2012, in the middle of the second recession, in a year in which almost 800,000 jobs were destroyed. In 2013 began a recovery of employment that already lasts five years. "It is difficult to know what part of the process of destruction and creation of employment corresponds to the reform [y cuál a la coyuntura económica]"Warns Felgueroso y Moreno.
"With enough reserves," says the latter, "yes you can say that there is a deterioration. Precarization spreads and increases inequalities. "
From the Right, Lahera defends the reform because "it was necessary to react before a tremendous crisis giving to the companies instruments of adaptation and there I believe that it was successful". His colleague Cruz Villalón is more critical: "It is convenient not to forget how it was carried out: without agreement neither with the trade union nor with the business side".
On one subject they coincide: "It is time to stop talking about 2012 and start talking about the future, about how the labor market is regulated".
Neither created it nor solved it
The explanatory statement clearly states that one of the objectives of the reform was "to reduce labor duality". It has not succeeded. At first, the destruction of employment was triggered by eventual ones and the temporary rate fell to 22% at the beginning of 2013. There, the labor market began to rise and with it, this type of unstable employment. 2018 ended with 27% of storms, one of the highest rates in Europe.
More discrepancies are about whether he really intended it. "I did not intend it," assumes jurist Lahera. "Explicitly, yes; but in the measures that were adopted, no. " "That is debatable," replies the other jurist, Cruz Villalón. He points to the theory that says that by reducing the costs of firing permanent workers – something that did reform – temporary contracts are discouraged. "My conclusion is that it has not affected temporality," he concludes.
Professor Moreno does believe that ending duality / temporality was an objective. Instead, he notes that "there are measures that have boosted part-time work somewhat or that contracts are shorter". In 2018, almost six million contracts, 27% of those signed in Spain, they lasted less than a week.
-But that's new? – asks Felgueroso, Fedea researcher.
-It is structural, but then we can say that the reform has not managed to modify it- Moreno answers.
The four participants agree that job insecurity, especially due to temporary employment, reached the Spanish labor market in the 1980s and remained. After no reform has managed to solve the problem. The incidence of the last one is, for Felgueroso, null or scarce: "Contracts are becoming shorter, but this begins before the labor reform. It is probably explained by other causes, such as technical and economic change. "
"This brings us the future. When you talk about labor reform you have to think about this trend for the next reforms, "he continues. "All this is changing very fast and is related to technological issues that allow you to contract very easily for specific tasks, even for a few hours or a few days. It is what we have above, what is happening with Uber. It's happening in the US without labor reform. "
"In the temporality, the bull was not taken by the horns", explains Cruz Villalón and alludes to the different treatment that deserves the entrepreneurs who contract temporarily out of necessity or fraudulently. With a point of fatigue, this professor begins by saying that "you do not have to look at the past, you have to see what the current situation is. We have an excessive obsession with the 2012 reform. " Having made this declaration of intentions, he continues: "A consensus has to be reached: the employer who needs a worker temporarily needs to be treated differently from the one who resorts to temporary hiring to fill a permanent position".
Also looking at how to reduce levels of precariousness, Lahera proposes that the possibilities of hiring temporary part-time workers who, afterwards, can work overtime, be restricted. "It can not be that temporary contract is mixed with flexible time. Then we are facing a doubly precarious and poor worker. "
Differences in the structure
If something is now open in the different negotiations that the Government and the PSOE have in place to adjust the 2012 reform, this is the point: primacy of the sectoral collective agreement over the company. For decades, many of the labor reforms that have been made in developed countries have gone in the opposite direction, giving more weight to negotiations in companies. The theory goes to say that this reduces the power of the unions in favor of the companies.
The pressure on Spain from international organizations to follow this trend and limit the automatic and indefinite extension of the agreements that were not renewed paid off seven years ago. Made. But the figures continue to say that sectoral agreements dominate collective bargaining: only 8% of employees have their working conditions regulated by the pacts in companies and, in addition, the coverage rate (the percentage of private sector workers covered by some type of collective agreement) remains around 90%.
"I would rate it as good that there is a high rate of coverage of collective bargaining and that agreements are made without traumatic situations," says Cruz Villalón, who is also president of the National Consultative Commission on Collective Agreements, appointed by the Ministry of Labor. "The effects have been reduced and the few that there are are pernicious", continues in relation to the so-called "multi-service companies". In recent years, companies have been proliferating that provide different services that sign business agreements in which they lower the agreed conditions in the sectors between employers and unions taking advantage of this change in the labor reform: chambermaids (the kellys), security guards, cleaners … have been some of the groups that have suffered this situation.
"In a country where 90% of collective bargaining takes place in sectors, between employers and unions, it is necessary that there be room for business negotiation," argues Lahera, who proposes to avoid excesses with limits to these pacts in outsourcing services or limiting business negotiation to companies with more than 50 employees. But, in essence, defends the current standard.
Cruz responds by providing data from a survey a few years ago by the Ministry of Labor that revealed that 70% of companies that did not resort to the business agreement did not do so because they were comfortable with the sector.
For Felgueroso, the problem is not in the figures or the structure. Your problem about the legal design of collective bargaining is in the representativeness of who negotiates the agreements. "The numbers of union membership are small," he says. He admits that "it is unfair to always talk about unions, because they are among the few that have data". "The big question is the transparency of employers," he continues. "I would maintain the current structure as it is, provided I had more confidence in what the negotiators represent."
Legal changes or underemployment
The creation of employment in recent years has been obscured by the Weakness of salaries. Inequality and labor poverty have blurred the spectacular numbers of the recovery. The OECD numbers show that 15% of workers live below the poverty line. And the 2017 EPA reveals that just over three million people charge a thousand euros a month or less. There are many part-time workers among them.
"At some point the wage devaluation could even be considered necessary to boost competitiveness. In addition, inflation became negative and it did not make sense to talk about wage increases ", explains Professor Moreno. The professor reiterates her little faith that legal changes correct for themselves the problems of the labor market without changing also the industrial or educational policy. "This is the productive structure and the low productivity of the sectors that pull the economy. There should be a coordinated action, "he says.
"We must take measures to correct the excesses of wage devaluation," says Lahera. "The reform was excessive in the substantial modification [y unilateral] of working conditions. This has been used by companies to make excessive adjustments. And there you have to put limits, that from a percentage can not reduce more the wage bill, "he proposes.
For Felgueroso "it's a little unfair to talk about wage devaluation to explain what happened with wages in recent years." The weakness of salaries, he argues, is closely linked to the high levels of unemployment, which reached 27%. This, in theory, means that there are many people willing to work for low wages; add underemployment (work fewer hours than you can and want), which has the same effect; It also adds new hires for young people and those who lost their job and find another with much lower salaries. "In collective bargaining there has been a moderation", ditch. That is, he does not see a direct and significant relationship between the 2012 reform and the weakness of salaries.
The vision of Cruz Villalón is another. "At the time of the reform, Spain had a serious problem of competitiveness. This requires acting on rents. That is why the reform has an impact on wage devaluation, but the most worrying was not to recover competitiveness on the basis of wages, but the distribution of sacrifice was unbalanced. A balanced distribution would have been more understandable and I think even more beneficial for the economy. " And criticizes that "promote low-wage employment and not encourage productivity … We have to act not only with labor measures, but also with industrial policies."
Enter the issue of productivity. "It's a structural problem, it's not solved with just one law," professor Moreno says. Felgueroso nuances: "I wonder what institutions do to keep productivity up." At this point, Lahera proposes "a model of clear indefinite hiring, which will facilitate more productivity and connect profit sharing with wages, with mechanisms that involve workers".
The focus of the headlines
The reduction in the cost of unfair dismissal of 45 days per year worked at 33, the elimination of the administrative authorization in the collective dismissals and the creation of objective elements that justified the ERE were the most controversial elements in the first steps of the reform. With time, they have lost prominence. The judges have gone marking the way and making it clear that they are not mere notaries who attest to the dismissals.
"It did not make sense that the terminations of contracts were made in the wrong way. I think it has had a positive result. Maybe now is the time to consider whether the difference between a justified dismissal and another that is not too close. We must go to models with greater differences: reduce the compensation for dismissal from less than 20 days and extend the unjustified to more than 33, to further incentivize the first. But I believe that the current structures must be maintained ", defends Professor Lahera.
Cruz Villalón is more critical: "The reform was done knowing what we wanted to remove but not knowing what alternative was going to be put. That caused a major tension in the first phase of the reform, "he says, referring to the sentences that annulled several collective dismissals six and seven years ago. "I think the situation has been recomposed, although there are some fringes left. It would be advisable to convert the consultation period into a real negotiation period in which not only the cost of dismissal is discussed, but also the relocation of those affected and their professional retraining, "he says.
When talking about the costs of dismissal, he reiterates his proposal to "address the compensation at the end of the temporary contract. Here we would have to establish two opposite poles: those who use temporality justifiably should not be penalized, even going so far as to eliminate compensation [ahora en 12 días por año trabajado] and to the one who uses it improperly, he should be sanctioned with punishments that are a real revulsive one ".
Moreno also ends up running away from time: "In the studies on incentives, it seems that the costs of dismissal are decisive. To approach what it costs to dismiss an indefinite and the indemnification of the temporary ones can have a beneficial effect, warns with "all reservation". And it closes with a worrisome fact: "We are seeing that indefinite contracts are often not such. 60% are terminated before two years ".
To analyze this point, Felgueroso takes the witness of Cruz Villalón: "Jesus says that we knew what we wanted to take away, but I would like to update it. My fear, when we now talk about counter reform or repeal, is to think that we have to return to the situation of 2012. That is not a reproducible scenario ", he analyzes," and not only in the dismissals ".
"The reform was very unbalanced. It gave a lot of flexibility, but little security, because in a short time there were cuts in active policies, "he stresses. "And now we remain unbalanced. In a context of technical change, training for employment is very important to face everything that comes our way. This is what we should be talking about. Not so much if the dismissal is a few days or so, that I think, in my opinion, has already lost some interest. "