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Zapatero to hold further talks with unions

Source: El Pais - Mon 27th Dec 2010

With his popularity sliding in the polls following a number of austerity reforms, the Prime Minister is set for a hard task over the next two weeks as he attempts to convince the country's unions of the need to reform the state pension and collective bargaining systems.

Government Ministers and the leaders of CCOO and UGT Unions have collectively set a deadline of January 10th to discuss issues which remain unresolved and which led to a general strike being held on September 29th and have prompted the unions to hint at the possibility of another one in the near future.

Zapatero is still trying to convince the financial markets of the countries solvency, and has been forced to undertake measures such as slashing public sector wages, freezing pensions and pushing through labor reforms. His Socialist government now proposes to dealy the legal pensionable age to 67 years from 65 years and extend the current period for calculating final entitlements.

Zapatero's latest austerity measure is to allow companies to renegotiate collective agreements without recognizing previous rights, a major concern of the unions.

A meeting Zapatero held with CCOO leader Ignacio Fernández Toxo and his counterpart at UGT, Cándido Méndez, alongside labor Minister Valeriano Gómez on December 19 made the unlikelihood of reaching a broad agreement painfully clear.

With his party lagging in recent polls, Zapatero is refusing to be drawn on whether he will stand in the general election of 2012. Last week he told the press that he had made his decision but that he was not going to make it public for the moment. He has however, has made it known to his advisers that he has no intention of throwing in the towel by calling early elections even if his party perform badly in municipal elections scheduled for May next year.

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