EH Bildu, present economic and social situation

We interviewed the spokesperson of EH Bildu Group in the Basque Parliament, Maddalen Iriarte, to get to know her opinion about the present economic and social situation and the proposals of her Group in this respect. She assures us that, this year, they have managed to get one of the aspects on which the budget debate hinges to be quality of employment, the dignification of workers and the transition to fairer models of business, socially and economically .

 

What’s your opinion of the present economic and social situation?

The rates of inequality, job insecurity and social exclusion that we have today in Alava, Biscay and Guipuzcoa are not acceptable for an advanced society. In spite of the fact that some want to make us believe that we have come through the economic crisis, what is true is that this period has structurally changed our society. We have accustomed ourselves to one thousand euro salaries, which would have scandalised us before the crisis. We have grown accustomed to collective dismissals, to layoffs, to factories closing down, to degraded areas given the deterioration of this Basque industry which was the pillar of our economic growth. Now, we are used to the companies where we work being at constant risk of closure, family instability due to lack of economic security, sending our sons and daughters abroad to live on a precarious salary, and they cannot return because here there are no jobs to be found. These and many others are the facts of our daily lives that demonstrate there is a change in the foundations of our economic and social system, and that the imbalances and inequality have taken root in our society.

We cannot deny this reality and, much less so, conform to it or assume it. We have sufficient resources to correct the situation and eradicate it, but, up to today, people have not been the priority, but merely the object of cuts. They have been the resource of the majority of administrations and of the current economic system to transfer the wealth generated to interests removed from the common good.

Our priority must be to guarantee a dignified life for all people and this means, necessarily, guaranteeing their rights, reconstructing and expanding the welfare state, a guarantee that must be established by a strong public sector that is the driving force of other economic and social sectors.

 

Is economic recovery reaching the Basque population in general?

As I said, there is an attempt to transfer a false general idea of recovery, when the reality is that the economic instability with which we live day to day has taken root in Basque families and in the working world. During the last few legislatures, Government activity has been characterised by economic and budgetary policies whose priorities have not been to tackle the serious problem of precarious employment, of social inequality or the lack of opportunities for young people. Under the obsession of deficit control, debt and the reduction of public expenditure, budgets have not been in harmony with the needs of the Basque citizens.

 

Cooperative model

Does the cooperative model in your opinion add a differential value in matters of socio-entrepreneurial justice?

To transform the socio-economic reality in which we live, the economy must respond to the social needs of our citizens and the capitalist model is no use for this, we need a social and solidarity-based economy. In this sense, it is important to highlight the importance of the Basque cooperative movement, which has proved to be an especially appropriate formula to create quality working posts, to redistribute wealth and to make possible the access of workers to the ownership of the means of production.

The Basque cooperative movement has entities that assume, organise themselves and act according to democratic criteria and solidarity-based distribution of profits, and consequently has served as a model for many countries while continuing to be a pioneer. It has contributed very efficiently to satisfying the needs and aspirations not only economic and in terms of development, but also social and cultural in our region.

But, precisely for this added value that Cooperatives have, they need to be especially protected and promoted via efficient public policies that support cooperativism. For this reason, we believe that public Administrations, the productive sector and the community must be involved in the impetus to promote different models of enterprise. If we want to transform our socio-economic reality from the bottom upwards, it is essential that all agents act jointly, each one in its own function. The Government cannot turn its head, it must promote from the public sector contracts and policies encouraging those who operate in the market with democratic structures that redistribute and reinvest wealth in their territory, establishing the basis of the social and solidarity-based economy in procurement contracts through, for example, social clauses.

 

What measures must be adopted to facilitate young Basque people’s access to employment?

Our aim is to eliminate the precarious situation of young people. “We need immediate corrective measures to create dignified employment, quality contracts. As a starting point, we recently transmitted to the Government a series of measures, plans and programs, whose set up would be essential for the employability of this group of people in dignified conditions.

To give an example, we claimed a budgetary allocation of 20 million euros to develop an Emergency Plan for Quality Employment, to activate aid aimed at enterprises and other types of economic organisations contracting new staff under determined conditions. Specifically, we are talking about conditions such as permanent contracts, three years´ commitment and more than 1,200 euros salary. In our proposal, social economy organisations and small and medium size enterprises are given priority, as well as strategic sectors related to ecological and technological transition, based on innovation.

In addition, we also claimed that the Government immediately promote important public policies to improve the situation of young people, such as measures to repatriate talent or reinforce training grants for Ph.D. research.

 

And what about promoting the self-employment of Basque youth?

We have observed that many young people have a need to begin to tackle their future career, but they don’t want to do it under the terms which conventional enterprises are offering them. This is why we understand that collective entrepreneurship may be an option. It is necessary to support enterprises that young people believe in, that add another value to employment, that establish other working conditions, that have another perspective, another view. Going from the individual entrepreneurial model to the collective may be an alternative for all these young people and their concerns.

This is why we have proposed investing €5m in collective entrepreneurial promotion plans, to continually boost collective access, especially of women and young people, to the various expressions of social economy, supporting particularly alternative and solidarity-based economy, guaranteeing aid and their continuity, attending especially to digitalisation.

 

In your opinion, should the Basque Cooperative Movement form part of the Executive Board of Lanbide?

The Basque Cooperative Movement represents hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of working people in our country. And not only this, but it represents a business model that gives our country added social and economic value. Therefore, we do not understand why it is not present in the Executive Board of Lanbide, and we have supported the movement in its claim to attend this forum.

 

To conclude, what are the main objectives of EH Bildu on the question of employment?

Beyond policies directly related to the promotion of employment, it is important to emphasise that it is essential to reinforce the commitment to advanced industry and the services linked to this field as the backbone of the Basque productive sector. We defend a decisive public policy in favour of R+D+i and an increase in the relative weight of the industrial sector, and its territorial and productive diversification, within the framework of an energy transition, seen as an opportunity and not as a threat. This renewed industrial sector will be the driving force in generating value and creating quality employment.

In the field strictly of employment policies, for us the main objective is the creation of quality jobs, based on dignified working conditions, without exclusion or discrimination, and which offer a response to overcome the pervasive structural instability. And, all this, integrating the feminist perspective and prioritising other ways of managing the economy. Precisely, in this context, the specific proposals which EH Bildu has presented must be framed in the negotiation of the 2019 budget. Proposals, to a value of €70m, that are consistent, viable and that tackle new lines of action.

To mention only a few, we have proposed economic aid to promoting a new business model, to develop the first experiences related to the democratisation of enterprises, by promoting access to information, organisation, participation and capacity of decision of the workers, both in the profits and in the capital. At the same time, we have claimed €2m to ensure that the business activity continues in the hands of the workers in various circumstances (transfers, closures, bankruptcy, etc.) and that offer the staff all the Government´s resources (legal advice, strategic planning, subsidies, resources for forming associations, ) guaranteeing the necessary accompaniment and follow-up.

We have requested a Circular Economy Promotion Plan, that is, a series of subsidies to create quality work-posts in different fields considered strategic to consolidate the transition of the productive model, through social economy organisations and via social clauses in public tendering procedures.

Also, we claim policies to overcome the salary gap and improve the quality of employment of predominantly female groups, such as care-givers.

In this way, we have ensured that, this year, one of the cores on which the budget debate hinges is the quality of employment, the dignification of workers and the transition to fairer models of business, socially and economically.

 

Maddalen Iriarte
Spokesperson of Euskal Herria Bildu Group in the Basque Parliament

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