Mercat, classe i persona en les relacions laborals. Entre la individualitat i l'acció col·lectiva

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


The objective of the thesis is to show that certain patterns that are habitual in sociological studies of industrial relations are losing their validity as interpretative models. Drawing mainly on the analysis of the Survey of the Quality of Life at Work (Encuesta de Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo, ECVT) of 2004 of the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and on in-depth interviews with leaders of employers' associations and trade unions, the study shows how present-day labour markets in Spain have a segmented structure that is complex and pluralistic. This makes it necessary to go beyond the traditional dualist visions in industrial relations (between insiders and outsiders, core and periphery, etc.), and to understand that industrial relations are not always merely bilateral relations between employers and employees. In the identified processes of segmentation of labour markets, the results show the importance of business strategies aimed at gaining greater decision-making capacity and at outsourcing risk.
The figures of the ECVT indicate that the current labour segmentation is leading to a fragmentation of interests, values, expectations, attitudes and behaviours among workers, which makes it difficult in industrial relations to consider workers (or companies) as a whole. Furthermore, labour segmentation and the diversity of interests, values, expectations, attitudes and behaviours among workers shows the importance of including gender, ethnic origin, social class and personal background in the study of industrial relations, and also of considering how the social relations of workers outside the company interact with those that take place inside it.
The thesis finds that labour segmentation fosters and creates suitable situations for individualistic attitudes among workers, some due to their low bargaining power and submission to the decisions of the employers, others due to their weak identification with the group, and yet others due to their high bargaining power. These diverse tendencies towards individualisation are aided when the traditional collective actors leave no room for personal particularities in collective relations.
Furthermore the plurality and complexity of labour segmentation lead, from objective and subjective bases that reinforce each other, to the emergence of corporate and micro¬corporate behaviours, especially by workers who share a distinctive market situation. Though trade unions claim to be universal and inclusive, they also show corporate behaviours due to biases in their membership and organisation, their strategies and their daily practices.
The plurality and complexity of labour segmentation leads to 'new' problems of governability for organisations, in what tends to be defined as management of and through diversity: reaching agreements on common objectives and defining shared strategies in such a way that groups and persons can project their aspirations on them, and carrying out daily actions aimed at implementing these strategies and achieving the cohesive functioning of the organisation. Indeed, as stated by Wright Mills, the question arises of how one translates the diversity of personal problems into collective ones and how these collective problems take on individual human meaning.
Finally, the thesis points out the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the study of industrial relations, of other sub-disciplines of sociology and other social sciences.
Date of Award31 May 2007
Original languageCatalan
SupervisorFaustino Miguelez Lobo (Director)

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