Yolanda Diaz and Gabriel Escarrer

07-09-2020

Has the Balearic government been to Ikea? Which lucky minister was it who was despatched with the Consolat de Mar government HQ credit card and told to return with a new table? My money would be on Pilar Costa, minister for the presidency. One has never been entirely sure what this portfolio entails, but if it covers the purchase of a social dialogue table, it must be her. As Francina’s right-hand woman, dialogue is naturally never far from Pilar’s utterance.

A highly socially responsible company, Ikea could probably be relied upon to supply the government with a socially acceptable table in a dialogue sense. However, there is one drawback with Ikea. Not local. Multinational in fact. Oh dear. But didn’t Podemos once style an election campaign on an Ikea catalogue? They did, and the judge - vice-president Juan Pedro Yllanes - was photographed with an Ikea watering-can (if memory serves correctly).

Now that he is VP and Balearic minister for “productive sectors”, to boot, does the judge continue to purchase his watering-cans from Ikea? Or has he embraced “local”? Statements and policy announcements since becoming VP would suggest that he has. Ikea it therefore couldn’t have been, and the judge would have been acutely aware that, despite that one-time Ikea dalliance, it wouldn’t have been acceptable for Podemos royalty (sic) to have to sit at anything other than a “locally” manufactured social dialogue table. Pilar had instead no doubt raised a tender, with the award having gone to an artisan in Llubi.

The royalty was the national minister of employment, Yolanda Díaz, who only became minister because Pedro Sánchez had to dole out jobs to Podemos (and the communist Unidas part of Podemos, from which Yolanda has been distancing herself) in order to make sure that he became prime minister. And now, Yolanda was in Palma for a “tripartite social dialogue table” at a state level along with the royalty of the tourism industry, e.g. Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá in his guise as the president of the Exceltur alliance for tourism excellence. In the pursuit of social dialogue, one-time polar opposite, sworn enemies were hobnobbing with each other.

The protagonism, Yolanda observed, has to be that of the “social agents”. Ministers, and not only ministers, do speak in mysterious ways when one translates literally from Spanish. Escarrer is one such social agent, a special agent on a mission to ensure ERTE extension for as long as Brussels has got adequate reserves to cough up. Other members of the business social agent royal family (Riu, Vueling and such like) were to gather.

It was a social dialogue gala event, with the newly crafted table reserved for what wasn’t quite an A-List of political royalty. Yolanda can’t exactly aspire to the A-List, but there was always Francina, and so dialogue there would have been in abundance around Pilar’s table. Much of it, most of it, all of it (one would hope) would have been social. And sociable. The protagonism was universal. Yolanda, Gabriel and others know full well that they’re all in this together. Any antagonism towards capitalist, multimillionaire hoteliers has to be set aside, as does reciprocal antipathy. Remarkably enough, the social agents are praising the efforts of Yolanda. It’s astonishing what pandemic-influenced tourism armageddon can do for social dialogue.

Parental leave and the Monteros of Madrid

While in Palma for the table, Yolanda wasn’t to escape too easily when pressed on the matter of paid leave for parents whose children have to stay home and isolate if these children have contact with a positive Covid case. But escape it was, up to a point, given that there was further obscure ministerial language. Rather than simply saying that parents would be entitled to X, there was baffling talk of “regulatory bases”.

Yolanda was required to get involved because there had been yet another series of contradictory statements from other ministers. PSOE’s María Jesús Montero, the finance minister, kicked things off by stating that there would be paid leave for parents if children were positive but not if they are negative and have to isolate.

At the leafy Madrid suburb villa home of the second deputy premier Pablo Iglesias and the minister for equality, Irene Montero, this wouldn’t have gone down at all well. The Iglesias-Montero brood isn’t old enough to go to infants, let alone primary school, but Irene and Pablo may well have been weighing up future developments. With combined portfolio interests of equality and social rights, to say nothing of ensuring ministerial salary temporary leave payments, the Podemos Meghan and Harry set about “rectifying” the finance minister’s statement. The partner of one Montero therefore announced that the other Montero had presented conditions which were “unacceptable”.

For Yolanda, there had been no contradiction. The entire government is in agreement, she observed, before confessing that “these are technical issues that are sometimes to difficult to explain”, that “communication problems” can arise, and that “concepts can create confusion”.

Absolutely. Like attempting to explain temporary leave entitlements in plain language.

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