No overall winner
Spain was brought to a near standstill but there were no winners in the general strike on Thursday. It is highly unlikely that the government will scrap their controversial labour reforms which means that thousands of seasonal workers will not be entitled to unemployment benefit at the end of the summer. The unions had their day but support for the strike was still low. As the Balearic government said “it was like a Saturday” and I think many people looked upon it like that. It just makes you wonder whether general strikes really serve their purpose. The government has been bruised but by no means battered. The Aznar government has a large majority and although they will have taken note they won't be too bothered. What next? Will the unions call another strike? Most unlikely. The government was even saying yesterday that the strike had been a failure. Perhaps now is the time for dialogue. The unions have an important claim, thousands of people will not be able to claim benefit. With this legislation the government is shifting traditional working practices in Spain. No longer will seasonal workers be able to go home at the end of the season and claim unemployment benefit if they haven't got a fixed contract for the following year. This is a major change and management will be under pressure to give fixed contracts. It is also a message that the tourist industry is no longer supreme. The government is saying that “we need the manpower but only under some different circumstances.” The unions now have a major battle on their hands. It will be interesting to see how they will react. The government at the moment has the advantage.

Jason Moore

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