Trade unions take positive view of new government

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Trade unions have responded positively to Spain's new Socialist government, which took office in April 2004. The unions are especially pleased with the new administration's express commitment to social dialogue and its social policy programme.

In April 2004, following the general election in March (ES0404102N), a new minority Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE) government was sworn in, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The two main trade union confederations took a positive view of the Prime Minister's inauguration speech. The Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) stated that the new Prime Minister's intention to maintain a 'fruitful social dialogue' with the unions and employers' organisations may allow the 'scandalous and unjustified' high temporary employment rate to be reduced. CC.OO also hopes that the new attitude may lead to a 'social agreement' that links the improvement of Spanish competitiveness with stable employment, reskilling and vocational training (one of the main themes of CC.OO's eighth congress, held in Madrid from 23 to 25 April).

The General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) also took a positive view of the desire for political change expressed in Mr Zapatero's speech. UGT highlights major political issues facing the new government: the renewal of democracy through the revitalisation of the institutions; a new attitude in relations between public administrations and authorities; and the improvement of justice, security and the fight against terrorism. The last point was a central issue in the trade unions' May Day celebrations.

UGT considers that one of the most outstanding aspects of Mr Zapatero's speech was the desire expressed to re-establish consensus and a commitment to Europe. The new government has stated a wish to achieve rapid approval of the EU's draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which includes guarantees on trade union and labour rights (EU0308204F). This commitment to Europe has been illustrated shown by a visit by Mr Zapatero to the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder on 28 April, with the intention that Madrid should form part of the 'Berlin-Paris axis'.

Both trade union confederations also approve the social agenda of the new government, highlighting its commitments to: the quality of employment; access to housing (with 180,000 dwellings to be provided for families); an increase in the minimum wage; changes in immigration policy; equal opportunities; and increases in the lowest pensions. The unions state that the programme and attitude of the new government coincide with their demands in several fields, such as guarantees on the future viability of pensions (ES0402103F), increases in the lowest pensions and raising the national minimum wage to EUR 600 per month (ES0402201N) by the end of the government's term of office.

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