Interregional Trade Union Councils between Portugal and Spain - a Portuguese viewpoint of an ongoing process
Center for Social Studies School of Economics University of Coimbra Coimbra, Portugal
History tells us that the implementation of industrial relations systems was an effort to regulate the use of labour, one of the fictitious commodities, so that it did not keep totally under the arbitrary rule of self-regulating market mechanisms. Unions are an integral part of this double attempt to struggle, on one hand, for the institutional de-commodification of labour, and on another, for the social, economic and political inclusion of workers in society.
Notwithstanding the mounting transformations, trade unionism maintained itself strongly anchored to the Nation-States´ sphere of regulation and to a national organizational praxis. Although one can say that Unions have been having difficulties in dealing with the new challenges put forward by this new self-regulating market global dystopia, it cannot be denied its capacity as a reflexive social actor, in attempting to develop new organizational, political and ideological perspectives so as to keep its role representing salaried workers.
The purpose of this paper is to study a specific kind of international solidarity and trade union transnational cooperation ? The Interregional Trade Union Councils (IRTUC). Being the first ones created during the seventies under the auspices of ETUC, only during the nineties was there a renewal of interest in these structures of trade union cross-border cooperation. I will focus on the four existing IRTUC´s between Portuguese and Spanish trade unions: Galicia/Norte Portugal (1985), Extremadura/Alentejo and Andalucia/Algarve (both in 1994) and Castilla-León/Beiras Nordeste (1995).
Some attention will be given to the creation of the different IRTUC´s: the problems and issues addressed, and the trade union partners? involved in order to emphasize the diversity of these processes. There are in fact important differences in socio-demographic and economic structures in all of these four regions, but also dissimilar levels of integration and cooperation between trade unions.
Through documental analysis and interviews to trade union leaders and activists in these councils, I will try to identify as far as these processes amount to significant transformations in the Portuguese trade union?s organization, allocation of resources, and political discourse and the outcomes of this cooperation with the Spanish counterparts.