Social Dialogue in Spain during the Crisis: The Impact of Narrowing Down and Policy De-Linking

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.1.02 (Tower Two)
Oscar Molina, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Antonio Martin-Artiles, Universidad Autonoma Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Tripartite social pacts are forms of governance characterized by the involvement of several actors in policy-making and the negotiation of many policies simultaneously. For this reason, they depend on the capacity to strike an acceptable balance between growth and the competing interests of those groups participating in the pact. We can accordingly expect the policies agreed in these pacts to be more inclusive and socially sustainable. Bearing this in mind, in this paper we analyze the experience of tripartite social dialogue in Spain during the crisis. As has happened in other EU countries, and particularly in those under the Troika surveillance mechanism, social dialogue in Spain has been replaced by unilateral government ruling. Several reasons have been provided in order to account for the collapse of tripartite concertation. Most of them point out to ‘input factors’ like now the weakening of trade unions and the electoral incentives shaping government inclination to negotiate with social partners. In this paper a different argument is made, according to which the crisis of tripartite social dialogue is related to the contents and outcomes of negotiations. More specifically, it is argued how a focus on regulatory reform (particularly centred on the labour market), together with a narrowing of policies included in negotiations have limited the space necessary to find an acceptable compromise with social partners. ‘Output factors’ are accordingly pointed out as being to a large extent responsible for this abandonment as these trends have contributed to weaken social support and legitimacy of social dialogue. More specifically, wage moderation and labour market reforms have not been counterbalanced with effective policies aimed at tackling some of their negative side effects, including increasing vulnerability of a part of the labour force. Moreover, the narrowing down of negotiations hinders the adoption of an integrated approach to policy-making.