The vote seemed comprehensive in the Spanish parliament: 168 in favour, only eight against. MPs approved the socialist government’s plans to reform the labour market. It is a relief for the prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and a boost for his minority government’s efforts to revive the struggling economy.
“Have no doubt that the measures included in this decree will contribute to job creation,” said Jose Antonio Alonso, spokesman for the Socialist party in parliament. “They’ll generate permanent contracts, improve the productivity of the Spanish economy and will increase flexibility in companies so that dismissals are a last resort.”
The 173 abstentions meant the outcome was inevitable. But they also illustrated the opposition’s lukewarm backing.
Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, for the Popular Party, said: “The government is putting forward reforms that are isolated, incomplete, confused and badly oriented – because they’re about firing, not hiring.”
The trade unions, which have held plenty of protests against the labour reforms, are planning a general strike in September.
Further tests await the government, which has pledged to slash Spain’s deficit over the next three years. Parliamentary approval for its next budget could prove tricky; if the opposition blocks it there could be early elections.