Yolanda Díaz will try again to push forward the unemployment benefit reform that Podemos overthrew yesterday in Congress with her vote against. The second vice president of the Government and Minister of Labor announced this Thursday that she will “immediately” begin a round of meetings with social agents to negotiate a new decree, after the increase in the Minimum Interprofessional Wage is announced this Friday.
“This reform will be agreed upon,” Díaz announced this Thursday in statements to the media upon his arrival at an informal meeting with his European counterparts in Namur (Belgium). The leader of Sumar has justified the haste with which this decree had to be approved before December 31, as it was one of the requirements to comply with the request for the fourth payment of European funds. The unemployment benefit reform is one of the measures included in the Recovery Plan to receive 10,000 million euros.
The Government has already formally made that request and the European Commission has a period of two months to evaluate the reforms before proceeding with the disbursement. There are some precedents, such as the case of Italy, in which the deadline for the country to correct errors has been extended by one month.
The reform was negotiated within the Government in December and has already represented a source of tension between Labor and the Economy. The decree that was agreed upon contained a wide range of measures: it increased the amount from 480 to 570 euros per month, eliminated the month of waiting between the benefit and the subsidy, allowed the possibility of combining a job and collecting part of the subsidy and It protected people that it did not previously cover, such as those under 45 years of age without family responsibilities and possible agricultural workers, among other measures.
But it did not have the endorsement of Podemos, which denounced that it implied a cut for people over 52 years of age. An argument with which his five deputies defended yesterday the vote against in Congress. The decree was repealed with the votes of that party, PP, Vox and UPN. The failure of the negotiations meant the first parliamentary defeat of the new coalition Government in less than two months since the inauguration of Pedro Sánchez.
“Yesterday the right, the extreme right and Podemos have cut back the rights of the unemployed, they have overturned a decree that extended the benefit of unemployment benefits to cross-border workers who come to Ceuta and Melilla to work. Today they are not entitled to unemployment benefits. They have voted ‘no’ to an important group of workers under 45 years of age without family responsibilities, who are left without unemployment benefits, or to the fact that casual agricultural workers do not have unemployment benefits. PP, Vox and Podemos have done it,” he criticized in statements to journalists.
Now, the Ministry of Labor will convene a meeting with social agents on an “immediate” basis. In any case, it will be after this Friday the Ministry announces the increase in the SMI, for which for now there is no agreement with businessmen, who have rejected the 4% figure proposed by the Government. Labor has already stated that, if a consensus is not reached, it will raise the minimum wage above that figure.
Díaz’s intention is to put on the table a social dialogue agreement on the unemployment benefit reform that increases pressure on political forces when it comes to rejecting it. “We are going to convene this table immediately so that this reform, now, can be discussed with the social agents,” he stated. “I know that there were improvements that the unions wanted, not with this specific reform, but with some aspects that have to do, for example, with part-time,” he specified. “We are going to put it up for debate.”
As the decree returns to the starting box, the measures will have to have the approval of the Economy again before leaving the Council of Ministers and then subjecting it to negotiation with the rest of the groups. The problem is that if Labor intends to take this measure, ruling out the support of the right, it will inevitably have to count on the votes of Podemos, which does not seem willing to move its positions.
Sources from the second vice presidency assure that yesterday afternoon, before the deadline for voting expired, they sent an offer to Podemos with the commitment to accept the amendment they requested and work on it together later in the processing of the decree as a bill. . Yolanda Díaz, however, has not clarified this Thursday if she is willing to maintain that commitment.
These same sources do clarify that once the decree is overturned, the negotiation is now not in such a hurry and they will have room to speak calmly and be able to debate the proposals with the unions, something that these organizations had criticized during the processing of the previous decree, approved at against the clock, they insist, to be able to meet the Brussels deadlines.
Irene Montero: “Let them withdraw the cut and they will be able to count on our votes”
The political secretary of Podemos, Irene Montero, has assured that her party will give the votes to approve this reform but as long as they eliminate that “cut” that they understand was implied by the decree as it came out of the Council of Ministers. “The improvement of the subsidy is still possible, it came into effect in June,” said Montero in an interview on Antena 3.
Montero has reiterated that if the Government wants to carry out this decree they have to eliminate the part of that measure that represented a “cut” for those over 52 years of age, a premise that they deny in Labor but that they were open to negotiating during the day of yesterday. “We have told them to withdraw it so that we can talk about advances in rights and not about a swallow,” Montero said today.
The point of conflict is in that segment of the population, which Podemos calculates to represent 40% of the total beneficiaries. The reform maintains the aid at 80% of the Iprem (480 euros) for people over 52 years of age. But it will progressively lower the retirement contribution base for that sector as follows: it will be 120% in 2024; 115% in 2025; 110% in 2026 and 105% in 2027.
If the aid were granted before June 1, 2024, the contribution base will continue to be 125%, as until now. The subsidy will be 570 euros in the first six months for most benefits, 540 in the following six and from then on it would remain at 480. Podemos understood that this is a “cut” that they could not accept, as they argued since days ago. In Labor, however, they reject that it is a cut.
Sources from the Ministry affirm that when the contribution for those over 52 was raised to 125%, it was done to compensate for the SMI that existed before 2018. Now that this minimum wage has increased a lot, as a result of the successive increases approved by the progressive Government of almost 50%, in the case of maintaining that 125% contribution, the situation arose that there are people who contribute more while collecting the subsidy than many others (2.5 million) who are working, explains Yolanda Díaz’s team.