Collective Bargaining Reforms in Southern Europe during the Crisis

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW1.2.02 (Tower One)
Miguel A Malo, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain
Johanna K Silvander, International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
The objective of this paper consists of comparing the reforms implemented in some Southern European countries on collective bargaining regulation during the crisis period, which was initiated by the eruption of the global financial crisis in 2008. We focus on three countries: Greece, Portugal and Spain. The three countries have been affected by financial assistance programs, and all of them have implemented regulatory changes in collective bargaining. However, while in Greece and Portugal those changes were explicitly included in their ‘memorandum of understanding’ with international creditors, in Spain the corresponding memoranda were limited to the financial sector. Nevertheless, the Spanish government also implemented important changes in collective bargaining. Therefore, a comparison between the three countries can shed light about how changes and impacts differ according to the pressure on these countries to implement structural reforms in their labour markets in order to modify the institutions for wage setting and, at the end, bilateral social dialogue. Comparisons will also be presented on how these reforms were carried out in the national contexts, and what kind of an impact the chosen processes had on tripartite social dialogue.

  We will identify the key changes and their legal and economic interpretation. We will pay special attention to the impacts of centralization and decentralization of collective bargaining in each country, and on expected changes in wage bargaining. In addition, the regulatory changes will be analyzed in light of the framework set by international law, namely ILO Conventions and Recommendations concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining. Indeed, the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) and the corresponding Recommendation set framework conditions on collective bargaining that put emphasis on the voluntary nature of collective bargaining as well as the autonomy of the negotiating partners to freely determine the level on which bargaining should happen: national, sectoral, branch or enterprise level. Furthermore, these legal instruments put emphasis on the appropriate representation of bargaining parties. Employers are, by default, institutions in themselves. However, workers should in light of International Labour Standards be represented by trade unions with appropriate legal protection, and only in their absence directly by themselves or any other type of representation. This latter provision has come in some cases in conflict with certain reforms introduced during the crisis.  

  Finally, we will include a discussion about the expected implications of these changes on the quality of bilateral and tripartite social dialogue.