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THE WEEK AHEAD

MADRID : Clash Over Labor Laws

January 25, 1994

Unions say they'll shut down Spain for 24 hours Thursday in a general strike against government attempts to abolish labor laws that gave workers four decades of ironclad job security.

The unions hope to force Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez to scotch new laws that make it easier for employers to fire, transfer and change job descriptions of their workers. Foreign investors and Spanish businesses claim that the old laws are the main reason that Spain has Europe's highest jobless rate--23%. Employers, they say, are encouraged to keep payrolls at a minimum because once-hired, never-fired laws mean they can't prune staff when the economy slows.

Unions say loosening job protection won't create jobs but rather will enable employers to replace veteran workers with cheaper new ones.

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