Self-regulation and the state in industrial relations in Southern Europe: Back to the future?

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This article analyses the role of the state in industrial relations and the development of collective bargaining autonomy in three Southern European countries. The starting point is the impact of contradictory forces on the direction of change. While there are strong pressures towards less state regulation of working conditions and collective bargaining, the macroeconomic framework of monetary union imposed new coordination requirements upon these economies. Social pacts in the 1990s and 2000s provided a mechanism of state-coordinated governance while at the same time helping to enhance negotiated self-regulation. Nonetheless, significant cross-national differences remained in the extent and form of autonomous collective bargaining and in its outcomes. The structural challenges facing social partners in these countries, together with an emphasis on institutional strategies of revitalization, left them in a weak position at both company and national levels to face the challenges brought on by the crisis. Thus recent developments show a clear pattern of increased unilateral state interference, which raises important questions regarding the future of bargaining autonomy and the role of trade unions. © The Author(s) 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
JournalEuropean Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • Bargaining autonomy
  • Greece
  • Portugal
  • social pacts
  • Spain
  • state intervention

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