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Op-ed: An end to social peace?

Spanish labor unions have called a general strike for March 29. This is one day after the national budget will be finalized and four days before elections in Andalusia and Asturias. It is shocking that unions will not wait for disapproval of the government to spread after the budget news goes public. Still, the last protests boosted the unions? confidence, and they will make the most of the labor reform process going on in the country and the announcement of more spending cuts. The combination of multiple dates would dilute a failure, but more important, it will encourage action. Further, it could be interpreted as backing for the socialist party in the upcoming elections in Andalusia, because the advertising posters will appear together.

Despite central labor unions losing credit in the past, this time their strike will have a higher chance for success. Unlike Zapatero, who paid little attention to the unions' discourse, the unions are more comfortable striking against the current government. And knowing what they are risking, they have united unions that were absent during the first strikes such as the Basques or transportation unions, both of which are essential for running the country.

Surely they will not reach an agreement for minimum services, which is what happened last time. And they will count on massive support from the public sector, which fears more wage cutbacks and, even after Beteta's statements, substantial payroll cuts. The labor unions have hampered the flexibility that could have avoided a lot of layoffs, and they are now fighting for their rights.

If the PSOE loses the Andalusia elections and is ousted from power, it could become radical and start looking to the streets and to labor union representatives. Even though Rajoy has backing at the polls and this strike could serve to showcase his determination, investors are going to make comparisons to other countries. Photos tend to incite fear when seen outside of Spain, and the March 29 protests could bring Spain something other than social peace -- social unrest.

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