• Marc van der Meer
Part of the The Societies of Europe book series (SOEU)


Spanish trade unions reflect the particular historical development before and during the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975. A legacy of deep regional, ideological and political cleavages still marks Spanish unionism today. Additionally, belated and uneven industrial development added to the fragmented organizational structure and low level of union membership. Until the civil war (1936–39), Spanish unions were weakly organized and ideologically divided between moderates in favour of institutional participation and those committed to a revolutionary strategy of ‘direct action’. The authoritarian dictatorship under Franco (1939–75) that followed the defeat of the Republicans suppressed free unions, but semi-clandestine decentralized groupings, largely as part of worker commissions, emerged in the 1950s. During the transition to democracy, union membership first soared due to political mobilization, and Spain re-established democratic institutions, pluralist labour relations, and works councils through an historic interparty pact. However, Spanish unions remained divided by ideological and political alignments. In particular, Communist-led and Socialist-led union movements became main competitors, while some smaller regional, independent and anarchist unions co-exist. After ending a period of social concertation, the two main union movements de-emphasized their party links and joint action in opposition to the Socialist government policies of fiscal austerity and labour market flexiblization. As a re-established democracy, Spain has joined the European Union and has modernized its industrial structure, but mass unemployment remains a major challenge.


Trade Union Collective Bargaining Union Membership Basque Country Labour Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alonso Soto, L. (1982), ‘Panorámica de sindicalismo Español actual’. Revista de Trabajo 67/68: 363–403.Google Scholar
  2. Astudillo López, J. (1998), Los recursos del socialismo: las cambiantes relaciones entre el PSOE y la UGT (1982–1993) (Ph.D. Thesis). Madrid: Instituto Juan March.Google Scholar
  3. Beligno, P. (1986), El socialismo Español y la cuestión agraria (1890–1936). Madrid: MTSS.Google Scholar
  4. Cabrera, M., and F. Del Rey (1996), ‘Los intereses económicos en Espana: Un siglo en la historia del asociacionismo empresarial’. In F. Comín and P. Martin Aceña, eds. La empresa en la historia de Espana. Madrid: Editorial Civitas, 442–56.Google Scholar
  5. Castillo, S. (1990), ‘Spain’. In M. van der Linden and J. Rojahn, eds. The Formation of Labour Movements, 1870-1914. Leiden: Brill, 209–40.Google Scholar
  6. Carr, R. (1990), Spain, 1808-1975. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  7. CIS (1996), Sindicatos. No. 2088. Madrid: Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.Google Scholar
  8. CC.OO (1992), Documentos aprobados en el 5’ Congreso Confederal. Madrid: Confederación Sindicai de Comisiones Obreras.Google Scholar
  9. —(1998), Balance de la evolución de los cotizantes 1994–1997. Madrid: Confederación S indicai de Comisiones Obreras.Google Scholar
  10. Escobar, M. (1993), Works or Union Councils? The Representative System in Medium and Large Sized Spanish Firms. Working Paper no. 43. Madrid: Instituto Juan March.Google Scholar
  11. Esenwein, G. (1992), ‘Spain’. In J. Campbell, ed. European Labour Unions. West-port, CT: Greenwood Press, 401–27.Google Scholar
  12. Fishman, R. (1990), Working-Class Organization and the Return to Democracy in Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Foweraker, J. (1989), Making Democracy in Spain: Grass-Root Struggle in the South, 1955–1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. García-Nieto Paris, J. (1979), ‘The Current Evolution of Trade Unionism in Spain’. Labour and Society 4(1): 26–48.Google Scholar
  15. Guillén, A. (1990), The Emergence of the Spanish Welfare State, 1876–1923: The Role of Ideas in the Policy Process. Working Paper no. 10. Madrid: Instituto Juan March.Google Scholar
  16. Heywood, P. (1989), ‘The Labour Movement in Spain Before 1914’. In D. Geary, ed. Labour and Socialist Movements in Europe before 1914. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  17. ILO (1969), Report of the Study Group to Examine the Labour and Trade Union Situation in Spain. Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  18. —(1985), The Trade Union Situation and Industrial Relations in Spain. Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  19. Jordana, J. (1996), ‘Reconsidering Union Membership in Spain: 1977–1994. Halting Union Decline in a Context of Democratic Consolidation’. Industrial Relations Journal 27:211–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. —, and K. Nagel (1998), ‘Trade Unions in Catalonia: Have Unions Joined Nationalism?’ In P. Pasture and J. Verberkmoes, eds. Working Class Internationalism and the Appeal of National Identity. Brussels, 83–106.Google Scholar
  21. Kohler, H. (1995), ‘El movimiento sindicai en España. Transición democratica, regionalismo, modernización economica’. Madrid: Fundamentos.Google Scholar
  22. Lawler, T., and M. Rigby (1994), ‘Spanish Trade Unionism after Social Concertation: 1986–1994’. Industrial Relations Journal 17(3): 249–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Linz, J. (1981), ‘A Century of Politics and Interests in Spain’. In S. Berger, ed. Organizing Interests in Western Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 367–417.Google Scholar
  24. Manu Robles-Arangiz Institutoa (1993), Informe de gestión de la comisión ejecutiva, anexo afiliación-económico-financiero. Bilbao.Google Scholar
  25. Martin, B. (1990), The Agony of Modernization: Labor and Industrialization in Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Martinez, R. (1993), Business and Democracy in Spain. London: Praeger.Google Scholar
  27. Martinez Lucio, M. (1990), ‘Trade Unions and Communism in Spain: The Role of the CC.OO in the Political Projects of the Left’. Journal of Communist Studies 80–99.Google Scholar
  28. — (1998), ‘Spain: Regulating Employment and Social Fragmentation’. In A. Ferner and R. Hyman, eds. Changing Industrial Relations in Europe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 426–58.Google Scholar
  29. Meer, M. van der (1996), ‘Aspired Corporatism? Industrial Relations in Spain’. In J. Visser and J. van Ruysseveldt, eds. European Industrial Relations. Traditions and Transitions. London: Sage, 310–36.Google Scholar
  30. — (1997), Trade Union Development in Spain: Past Legacies and Current Trends. Working Paper no. 18. Mannheim: Mannheim Centre for European Social Research.Google Scholar
  31. Mees, L. (1998), ‘Social Solidarity and National Identity in the Basque Country: The Case of the Nationalist Trade Union ELA.STV’. In P. Pasture and J. Verberckmoes, eds. Working Class Internationalism and the Appeal of National Identity. Brussels.Google Scholar
  32. Miguélez, F. (1995), ‘Modernisation of Trade Unions in Spain’. Transfer 1(1): 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. —, and Prieto, C. (1999), Las relaciones de empieo en España. Madrid: Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  34. MTSS (1992), Las elecciones sindicales de 1990. Madrid: Ministerio de Trabajo y de Seguridad Social.Google Scholar
  35. Palacio Morena, J. (1988), La institucionalización de la reforma social en Espana: 1883–1924. La comisión y el Instituto de Reformas Sociales. Madrid: MTSS.Google Scholar
  36. —(1993), ‘Relaciones laborales y tendencias organizativas de los trabajadores y de los empresarios’. In J. Garcia Delgado, ed. España, Economia. 6th ed. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 697–737.Google Scholar
  37. Pérez Díaz, V. (1993), The Return of Civil Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Roca, J. (1991), ‘La concertación social’. In F. Miguélez and C. Prieto, eds. Las relaciones laborales en España. Madrid: Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  39. Ruiz, D. ed. (1993), Historia de comisiones obreras (1958–1988). Madrid: Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  40. Smith, A. (1995), ‘Spain’. In S. Berger and D. Broughton, eds. The Force of Labour: The Western European Labour Movement and the Working Class in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 171–209.Google Scholar
  41. Soto Carmona, A. (1989), El trabajo industrial en la Espana contemporanea, 1874–1936. Barcelona: Anthos.Google Scholar
  42. —(1993), ‘Comisiones obreras en la transition y consolidación democratica’. In D. Ruíz, ed., Historia de comisiones obreras (1958–1988), 451–524.Google Scholar
  43. Taboadela Alvarez, O. (1992), La afiliación sindicai: hacia una aproximación del sistema de representación de intereses en el sindicalismo Espanol contemporaneo (Ph.D. Thesis). Madrid: Universidad Complutense.Google Scholar
  44. Tunón de Lara, M. (1985), El movimiento obrero en la historia de España. 2 vols. Madrid: Sarpe.Google Scholar
  45. UGT (1994), La afiliación a la UGT según el sexo y la edad. Madrid: Unión General de Trabajadores.Google Scholar
  46. —(1998), Datos de afiliación y elecciones sindicales. XXXVII Congreso Confederal. Madrid: Unión General de Trabajadores.Google Scholar
  47. USO (1987), ‘Origen e ideologia USO’ and ‘USO y el movimiento sindical.’ El Proyecto 1: 19–74.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bernhard Ebbinghaus and Jelle Visser 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc van der Meer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations