Nadia And Yolanda, At The Boss’ Right And Left Hand


Fernando González Urbaneja | The second (Nadia Calviño) and third (Yolanda Díaz) vice-presidents of the Spanish government have a hard time putting up with each other; they hide it, but sometimes they betray each other. A gesture, a comment, a confidence… and the dissimulation vanishes. It happened yesterday in Parliament, over the “reversal of the labour reform” but it is well known to the usual interlocutors of the two vice-presidents. They are two different talents, two different stories, two Galician women with different brain circuits.

Both serve the same Prime Minister, on whom they lavish loyalty and discipline, while the Prime Minister manages dissimulation because he needs both of them. Nadia Calviño brings credibility in Brussels and Yolanda Díaz brings stability to the coalition government, with the 35 votes of UP in Congress.

Calviño, the economic vice-president, is there for what she has always been there for: explanations in Brussels and the coherence of documents and commitments with the European Union. Yolanda Díaz is much more politically minded and makes use of a powerful loudspeaker, social dialogue and the Ministry of Labour.

When the Labour Minister reiterates the drivel about labour reform, Calviño, the Economy Minister, raises her eyes to heaven in a plea for an end to the nightmare. She wants to appease her fold, although she knows, she admits, that “repealing” the labour reforms is literally an entelechy. Another issue is to promote new legislation (which has its long and cumbersome procedure) that would annul the effectiveness of company agreements (to the detriment of union and employer bureaucratic power). Legislation which would consolidate the application of expired agreements until a new one is approved and that would limit subcontracting and other flexibility formulas.

The basic debate is about more or less flexibility; on the one side (Díaz) they claim that less flexibility will favour the working conditions of the employed; on the other (Calviño) they argue that with more flexibility there will be more employment and more potential for growth. But they do not explain it in the kind of terms that require going deeper than just a headline.

So far the fruits of the social dialogue, with several agreements between employers and trade unions, are meagre. For example, the effectiveness of the ERTEs as a preventive medicine for the labour catastrophe is a good policy, to a large extent supported by the controversial labour reform. But it is an almost obligatory policy, which contains the catastrophe, but nothing more and nothing less.

Where there is no progress, and the government has already been in office for many months, is in the basic problems: precariousness, temporary employment, chronic and very high unemployment… the Minister of Labour maintains that with her the great reform will come, that we are going to find out, that the legislature is beginning, that the world is watching… but these are just words; boasting or a show of self-esteem that does not go father than the talking stage. The Economy Minister looks skywards and sighs. And Sánchez reiterates that Spain is leading the recovery with feminism and progressivism.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.