The General Workers" Union (Union General de Trabajadores) is one of the two main union confederations in contemporary Spain. It is the only major trade union which can trace its history back to pre-Civil War Spain when it had strong links with the socialist PSOE. Initially in the post-Franco period, the UGT was in a weaker position than its main rival, the communist-led CC OO. Many of its historic leaders had been in exile, whereas activists of CC OO had been the dominant group in the workers" opposition to Franco. Thus, at the time of its congress in 1976, the UGT membership only numbered 6,000. The next ten years saw the transformation of the UGT into the most supported union in Spain. In the 1986 union elections the UGT had a sixpoint lead over CC OO. The UGT's growth in power was parallelled by and related to the upward trajectory of PSOE. Despite the dominance of CC OO within the labour movement opposition to Franco, the emergence of a strong socialist trade union during this period is not surprising. The increasing support for PSOE and its entry into government in 1982 also encouraged the filling of "socialist space" in the union field. PSOE members were expected to join the UGT, and several UGT leaders occupied governmental roles. The UGT became identified as the union of PSOE and was a moderate alternative to many workers who rejected the more oppositional CC OO with its links to the communist PCE.
   Although the UGT's identification with PSOE undoubtedly benefited the union during this early period, it also gave rise to increasing tension from the mid-1980s. The UGT was expected to cooperate with government policies (e.g. industrial restructuring and the negotiation of social pacts) to a degree which threatened the autonomy of the union. As the government's economic policy became more liberal and unemployment grew, the UGT found it more difficult to maintain the partnership with PSOE. It became sensitive to the negative impact such moderation was having on actual and potential supporters. Hence one of the significant developments in industrial relations during the 1990s has been the growing apart of union and political party, accentuated by interpersonal problems between the leaders of the two organizations.
   The divorce of UGT from PSOE and its increasing hostility to government policies has facilitated closer relations with CC OO and the presentation of a more united front to employers and government, although there are still significant minority groups in both unions who want a closer relationship with the political parties. The UGT has found the journey to autonomy more difficult than CC OO. The nature of its growth meant its rank and file organization was weaker than that of CC OO. The retirement of its historic leader, Nicolas Redondo, came at a difficult time. Its attempts to modernize itself and offer a range of member services have been handicapped by failures such as the collapse of its housing co-operative PSV. It has currently lost the initiative to CC OO and its electoral performance has suffered.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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