trade unions

trade unions
   Independent unions emerged as part of the transition to democracy. Under Franco there was an official union structure, the vertical syndicates, although there did emerge an increasingly significant independent workers" movement, the largest element of which was the Workers" Committees, or CC OO.
   The constitution of 1978 established the right to form independent unions and the freedom to join them. The Workers" Statute of 1980 established the framework for post-Franco employer-union relations. Section 2 provided for the election within companies of works committees with the right to negotiate with employers. Resulting agreements are made binding on employers by Section 3 of the Statute. The major unions successfully put forward "slates" of candidates for these elections and have increasingly dominated the works committees and thus collective bargaining. Success in these elections also determines negotiating rights for the unions at provincial, sectoral or national level and the pattern of distribution of governmental subsidies to the unions.
   Not surprisingly, winning elections has become a major objective for each union. The unions are representative rather than membership based (in the UK, for example, the unions depend on their membership for finance and negotiating power rather than on any electoral system). This has contributed to the relatively low union density in Spain (10–20 percent). A Spanish worker can vote for and be represented by a union delegate without joining the union, with the consequence that the mobilizing ability of the unions is greater than their membership would suggest. Other factors contributing to low membership are the high proportion of small firms, which are difficult to organize, the political and manual-worker image of the unions, which has discouraged nonmanual workers, and the relative youth of the independent union movement. At national level the two dominant unions are the General Workers Union (UGT) and CC OO. However, regional unions are important in Galicia and the Basque country, as are occupationally based unions in certain sectors, such as doctors and pilots. The two major unions are confederations which, through their sectorally based federations, seek to organize all employees in each industrial sector. Until 1986 the unions participated in social pacts with the government and employers to deliver political stability and salary moderation. From 1986, the unions have sought to strengthen sectoral level bargaining. The disengagement from social pacts (no longer favoured by political and economic circumstances) has been accompanied by more distant relations between the unions and the political parties with which they had been traditionally linked (particularly evident in respect of the UGT and the PSOE). This has fostered greater unity between the two major confederations (made more necessary by the difficult economic environment faced by the unions). Despite greater unity, the organizational weakness of the unions at company level prevents them from turning away completely from the political arena. They still seek advances via legislation and involve themselves in sociopolitical campaigns (e.g. on unemployment), more than would be typical of union movements in northern Europe.
   Further reading
   - Lawlor, T. and Rigby, M. (1994) "Spanish Trade Unions 1986–1993", Industrial Relations Journal, 25, 4: 258–71.
   - Martinez Lucio, M. (1997) "Spain: Regulating Employment on Social Fragmentation" in Ferner, A. and Hyman, R. Changing Industrial Relations in Europe, Oxford: Blackwell.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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