Spain: Huge decline in trade union membership post-crisis

In the period 20092015, the four main trade unions in Spain registered losses of affiliated members of around half a million, the inevitable fallout of the recent economic crisis, high unemployment rates and corruption scandals in recent times.

Between 2009 and 2015, CCOOUGTCSIF and USO (the four main trade unions in Spain, which represent around 80% of workers) lost 584,788 affiliated members in total (as published by the Expansion newspaper, based on data provided by these four organisations). The economic crisis, high unemployment levels and scandals linking trade union leaders to corruption cases seem to have affected trade unions’ representativeness in Spain. The trade union which lost the highest number of members was CCOO, where numbers decreased by 24.2%, from 1,203,307 registered in 2009 to 909,052 in 2015. The second most affected trade union was UGT: they lost 276,617 members (from 1,205,463 in 2009 to 928,846 in 2015).

In March 2016, trade union elections in companies were held. CCOO was again the leading trade union, just ahead of UGT (in 2012 the difference between them was 6,500 delegates; in 2016, the difference was 8,600 delegates). Interestingly, CCOO members declared that membership rates seem to be increasing again, after a deep fall during the crisis years. However, The general perception is that in reality CCOO is not recovering so strongly. Against this background, CCOO held a meeting on 1 April 2016 to celebrate their win in the companies’ elections – and also to talk about the future of the trade union and its renovation.

Generally speaking, some experts argue that there are not enough incentives to encourage Spanish workers to join trade unions. One of the main reasons for this is that in Spain collective agreements affect all workers equally, regardless of their membership. Thus, affiliation rates have traditionally been low in Spain (compared to other European countries), and they have become even lower during the economic crisis, when trade unions have lost around 500,000 members. At present it seems that there is an increasingly negative social perception towards trade unions. Furthermore, trade unions are excessively dependent on public financing, as members’ fees are not sufficient.

(Source: news in Expansion newspaperopinion article in CincoDias newspapernews in CincoDias newspaperCCOO website).

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