Can an independent trade union survive in Spain?

Or do they all live off the state in order to live at all? This re the emergence of an independent domestic workers union in Barcelona, Sindihogar.

Trebots @ Thursday November 24th 2011 12:08

A friend is involved in the new female (migrant) domestic workers' union, Sindihogar (release here by Drina Ergueta), an excellent initiative, and one which moreover says it will remain independent. But is that realistic in a town where what passes for civil society is in fact the many-headed hydra of the state? Where all other working class (immigrant) organisations accept interference in exchange for subsidies and office space, and end up serving the political, linguistic (regime organs immediately Catalanised the name as Sindillar) and family employment needs of an administration cacique rather than their (potential) membership?

One organisation which doesn't even have to pretend to be a NGO is the council's Centre d'Informació i Recursos per a les Dones, which has a rather nice house on c/ Camèlies. I walk past it every couple of days and can honestly say that I've ever seen any members of the public inside, although there are evidently some every now and again. But they make all the right noises, and their newish blog has strategic flurries of posts coinciding with the municipal elections at the end of May and the generals just past, so maybe they'll survive with salaried staff and all. (If you visit them, make sure you check out the next house along - I think it's no 38 - which has a splendidly tasteless dog and monkey above the door.)

(This "end all state finance for community groups, religious organisations, professional associations, advocacy groups, folk dancing, Formula 1, football etc" rant is actually the paws and jaws of the "end all cultural subsidies now" closing rant from yesterday. But, without descending into cynical gloom, if you look back to the first Mayday in Barcelona, the smart orators were probably working out already how long it would take them to sequester state resources for their finch collection.)

  • Barcelona (901)
  • Civil society (1) Civil society is the "aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens." Civil society includes the family and the private sphere, referred to as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business. By other authors, "civil society" is used in the sense of 1) the aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens or 2) individuals and organizations in a society which are independent of the government.
  • Domestic worker (1) A domestic worker or domestic helper (also: factotum) is a person who works within the employer's household. Domestic helpers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to housekeeping, including cleaning and household maintenance.
  • Market (2)
  • State (1)
  • Trade union (1) A trade union (British English / Australian English / New Zealand English / South African English / Caribbean English; also trades union), labour union (Canadian English), or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, improving safety standards, achieving higher pay and benefits such as health care and retirement, increasing the number of employees an employer assigns to complete the work, and better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers.
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  1. Tom
    November 24th 2011 15:29

    Funnily enough, I was thinking of just this the other day: how possible would it be to establish a new general workers' union without the state/PSOE muscling in? Because the only way 'indignados' can have any sway is by uniting with labour. Which would have to mean a new organisation.

    I hadn't heard of Sindihogar... it sounds like a really positive development.

  2. Trebots
    November 24th 2011 16:01

    It's got to be the only labour organisation in Spain not run by an old man with a beard. There's bound to be a law against it.

  3. A Nun
    November 24th 2011 16:08

    I imagine it's a question the official unions will be asking themselves pretty soon. Why should the PP keep paying for them if all they're going to do is protest against the cuts?

  4. Trebots
    November 24th 2011 17:52

    Spain isn't a totalitarian dictatorship, but there's still a whiff of Poland 1980: you've had official unions run by old men in hock with the ruling party which represent well-off middle-aged workers and which resist any change to the status quo; then you've got non-unionised youth suffering massive unemployment who I suppose might embrace a Solidarity-type free union movement, or alternatively might come to support radical labour market reform and deunionisation on the grounds that it would dislodge older, lazier, worse-educated workers and give their generation a chance. Either way the official unions are surely doomed.

  5. Náiguel Puig i Clot
    November 24th 2011 20:14

    Tom - since Cándido, erstwhile Marx of the Middle Class, only represents those who are working - and knows perfectly well that the rate of youth unemployment is directly caused by that sweet finiquito due his loyal followers - we're wondering how interested he'd be in having the indignant on board.

    Today's fact-like items - there are more 55-65 year olds working now than there were in 2007-2008. Fewer under-35's than at the beginning of 2002.

  6. Candide
    November 25th 2011 14:56

    shows that there are several other organisations left to be aryanised. Especially "Mujeres Pa'lante", obviously.


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