industrial relations

   The Franco regime prohibited trade unions, establishing instead the so-called "vertical syndicates" (sindicatos verticales), which, purporting to make class conflict irrelevant, grouped workers, managers and employers together on an industry by industry basis. The law on collective agreements of 1958 allowed collective bargaining on wage settlements in individual enterprises, but in the late 1950s and early 1960s, specifically industrial demands for improvements in earnings and conditions of work were frequently inseparable from politically motivated aspirations for greater democracy in trade union organization and in the political system as a whole. The restoration of democracy after the death of Franco saw a sharp rise in trade union activity and membership. The consultation between government and unions which produced the Moncloa Pacts established a precedent for partnership in tackling the serious problems of inflation and balance of payments deficits, and led to a series of wage agreements in the years up to 1986. Little was done, however, to tackle the high rates of unemployment, and relations between government and unions deteriorated to the point where the whole country was brought to a standstill by a very successful general strike in December 1987.
   This gave the unions considerable power in the early 1990s: for example, an agreement for an extra 400,000m pesetas for pensions was concluded on 25 January 1990. By that time, however, the initial surge of enthusiasm for union membership had fallen off. From 58 percent of salaried workers in 1978, active membership had fallen to 10 percent by 1994 (compared to 40 percent in Britain and over 80 percent in Sweden). The effect of this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that voting in union elections is open to nonmembers, but overall the result has been a substantial weakening of union power. This has enabled both PSOE and PP governments to press ahead with deregulation measures similar to those being pursued elsewhere in Europe. In 1994 a legislative package was approved which curtailed job protection, introduced greater flexibility into the labour market, and increased the proportion of temporary and part-time contracts. Apart from local industrial disputes, there has been a decline in the traditional militancy of the Spanish labour movement, reflected in a steady reduction since 1980 in the number of working days lost through strikes.
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (see especially chapters 10 and 11 for a lucid account of the modernization of the economy and the corresponding changes in the role of unions).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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