Negotiating work in the liberal age : unions, the state, and labour market reform in restoration Spain, 1875-1923
This thesis studies the expansion of workers' collective action and collective bargaining over working conditions in the context of the Spanish Restauracion (1875-1923), in an institutional setting characterised by the absence or little enforcement of legislation concerning industrial conflict and the regulation of working conditions. The thesis addresses two of the main issues in the contemporary and historical debate. The first one addresses the causes of labour unrest and the existence of a weak and politically radical labour movement. A second related issue argues that, had Spanish unions adopted the outlook of more conservative British or German unions, they would have been able to advance the interests of workers more effectively. In the first part of the thesis, I offer a narrative of union development based in coalition-formation. My main argument is that state policy was crucial in shaping the outlook of Spanish unions. I argue that in strike waves, workers in large cities had some degree of political power and were able to obtain the (often only temporary) protection of state officials from employers' counterattacks. Since the state was able to monopolise the repression of the labour movement up to 1919, 'public' lobbying to attract the support of the state radicalised the positions of employers and unions. Severely contested union rights brought about a system of industrial relations that was fragmented and organisationally weak, dependent on state policy to be shaped effectively. Up to 1920, the state, however, hesitated to expand its authority to regulate more thoroughly the relations between workers and their employers. The second part of the thesis asks if the Spanish system of industrial relations hindered the reaching of co-operative solutions to social problems. In other words, was the prevailing system of collective bargaining efficient in the fulfilment of the rapidly changing preferences of workers in the period. To answer this question, the thesis offers three case studies of collective bargaining over workplace public goods. The main conclusion of these exercises is that the supply of public goods was more neutral than expected with respect to the institutional setting. Weak unions and the absence of local or regional collective bargaining did not prevent workers to modify working conditions according to their changing preferences for a shorter workday, a safer workplace, stable wages and income smoothing during economic downturns.