EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Perceptions of globalisation: attitudes and responses in the EU — Spain

  • Observatory: EMCC
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 02 March 2008

Emma Cervino

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Restructuring and relocation have become a key issue in Spain since the beginning of 2000, when many companies have closed in Spain and moved its production to other countries, specially East-Centre Europe, Asia, and Africa. This has generated social alarm and industrial conflict, specially in sector geographically concentrated, such as textile (concentrated in Catalonia and Valencia), or industry (Delphy is concentrated in Cadiz). Government has developed some policies aimed to reduce social and economic effects, as well as to increase competitiveness of Spanish economy. Social dialogue with most representative unions and employers organization has played an important role in this respect.

Institutional responses to globalisation

Government action to prevent or reduce the extent of off shoring/relocation

Are there any recent examples in your country (i.e. over the past 3-4 years) of the government intervening to prevent particular activities from being relocated abroad or to reduce the scale of this?

Yes. Government has intervened to reduce and prevent effects of liberalization in sectors most affected with the participation of social agents. In the first place, Government agreed with most representative unions -the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Comisiones Obreras, CCOO) and the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT)-, as well as with the most important employers associations- Spanish Confederation of Employers Association ( Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales. CEOE ), the agreement: Declaration for social dialogue 2004: Competitiveness, permanent employment and social cohesion, in which decided to develop industrial policies aimed to prevent restructurations and relocation. One of the policies developed has been the creation of 8 observatories of industrial sectors (observatories).

Government has also agreed with and trade unions (CCOO, UGT) a plan of support to the Textile sector in order to facilitate its adaptation to the trade liberalization of the sector. The plan will be regulated by law and establishes reinsertion policies to palliate effects on employment, economic compensation for workers between 55 and 61 years old affected by redundancy procedure and who are still unemployed, as well as measures to foster sector competitiveness.

Ministry of labour and social agents are also trying to reach a similar agreement for the footwear sector.

One of the most recent cases In which the Government is intervening to reduce social and economic effect of relocation is the case of DELPHI.

In more general terms, and in response to the internationalization of the economy, Government is aimed to develop a new industrial policy, which increases competitiveness through an increment of productivity based on more investment on research, technology and innovation. (Source: Spanish National Reform Program)

Social partner attitudes towards off-shoring/relocation

Have there been cases over the past 3-4 years where the possibility – or threat – of relocation of production has featured as a factor in collective bargaining?


Relocation is growing importance en Spain for that reason, the most representative trade unions (CCO, UGT) and the employers association (CEOE), in the Multi-industry agreement for Collective Bargaining 2007, gave the main guidelines to be consider in collective bargaining when facing relocation/restructurations cases, which are the following:

  • Explanation and justification of restructuring processes.
  • Territorial dimension.
  • Special attention to medium and small companies.
  • Study of alternative to relocations such as pre-retirement, reinsertion policies, external/internal reclassification, support to company creation initiatives.

Are there any cases over the past 3-4 years where trade unions have successfully resisted plans to relocate production abroad or have managed to reduce the extent of this?

Yes. SEAT moved one factory from Martorell to Bratislava (Slovakia) in 2002 due to lower salaries and state support in he Easter country. Two years later, in 2004, the factory came back to Spain due to an agreement between trade unions and the company. The agreement consisted of:

More flexibility.

Compromise by the company of providing a precise programme of production.

Compromise to foster work-life conciliation.

Are there any cases where trade unions have accepted the need for the relocation of production – or part of it – abroad as a means of maintaining or improving the viability of companies and so of preserving some jobs and even ultimately expanding them?

Yes. This is the case in many of the relocation cases observed (like textile sector, or fishing). Unions don’t have other option but to accept the company strategy of relocation of part of production to countries where production is cheaper. Unions’ strategies consist of protection of employment in Spain, or social compensation when job reduction takes place. A more general strategy consist of negotiation with government (national/regional) of policies of support of the sector.

Government policy on foreign-owned firms controlling significant sections of the economy

Does the Government in your country have an explicit policy on restricting the acquisition of domestic companies in certain sectors by foreign-owned firms?

Government defends freedom of competitiveness but consider that sectoral regulation is crucial in sectors where the free market cannot, on their on, guarantee the best allocation and use of resources. Some of these sectors are: energy, tele-communications and transport, along with the management of water and other natural resources.

Are there any restrictions on foreign-owned companies setting up branches or subsidiaries in your country either generally or in specific sectors?

Energy, tele-communications and transport, along with the management of water and other natural resources.

Are there any sectors of the economy in which the acquisition of a domestic company has not been allowed over the past 3-4 years?

No information.

Social partner responses to the take-over of domestic firms by foreign-owned ones

Have there been any recent cases (i.e. over the past 3-4 years) where trade unions have resisted foreign acquisition of domestic companies explicitly because of the nationality of the company concerned?


Have there been any recent cases (i.e. over the past 3-4 years) where domestic companies have resisted acquisition by a foreign-owned firm on the grounds of its nationality?


Attitudes to globalisation

Have employers’ associations in your country adopted a stated position as regards the main aspects of globalisation – i.e. outsourcing or the relocation of production abroad and the acquisition of domestic companies by foreign-owned ones?


Have trade unions in your country adopted a stated position as regards the main aspects of globalisation – i.e. outsourcing or the relocation of production abroad and the acquisition of domestic companies by foreign-owned ones?

Yes. In both cases, employers and trade unions consider that restructuring implies anticipation policies and also analysis and valuation of social-economic consequences, and give a guidelines for collective bargaining (see below). They also consider important the development of tripartite and bipartite sectoral observatories paying special attention to small and medium size companies (Multi-industry agreement for Collective Bargaining 2007)

If so, please give summary details, indicating whether or not the position varies across sectors of the economy

*A Eurobarometer survey on globalisation was carried out in 2003 in the EU-15 Member States. This might serve as a useful point of reference for the countries concerned, to see, for example, whether or not national attitudes expressed in the survey are in line with similar surveys which have been conducted nationally. The survey findings are available at:


Have there been any surveys of public opinion in your country over the past 3-4 years on attitudes towards globalisation or on the various dimensions of this (as listed above)?

Yes. The Centre for Sociological Research (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, CIS) have published two surveys on globalization:

Globalization and International Relations (Globalización y Relaciones Internacionales, Estudio nº: 2.626), May 2005. Quantitative study, 2.500 interviews. (Description and main results)

In general terms, respondents have a positive attitude toward globalization. Its associated with intercultural exchange and progress, and it will have positive effects for Spanish companies.

No possible distinguish by characteristics of respondents. No access to metadata.

Perception and Image of the Globalization Phenomenon (Percepción e Imagen del Fenómeno de la Globalización, Estudio nº: 2.628), November-December 2005. This is a qualitative study based on focus groups, which complement the first one. (description). Results no published.

If so, please summarise the main findings of these. Please give a breakdown, where possible, in terms of the characteristics of respondents (e.g. by sex, age, socio-economic group, education level, occupation, sector of employment or region).

Have these surveys made a distinction between the different dimensions of globalisation (as listed above) or have separate surveys been carried out on these dimensions?

No. The only question related is one which ask about the level of agreement with the following sentence (question 8 of the questionnaire):

It is fair that a company install where is best for its interests, even thought this implies install in other country.

Investors should invest anywhere of the world.

In both cases, there is a high level of agreement (43% in the first case, 59% in the second case)

If so, please summarise the main findings of these as regards:

off-shoring(or the relocation of production abroad;

the take-over of domestic companies by foreign-owned ones and/or the growing extent of control by foreign companies of parts of the domestic economy

the establishment of new plants and offices by foreign-owned companies

Where possible, please give a breakdown in each case in terms of the characteristics of respondents (e.g. by sex, age, socio-economic group, education level, occupation, sector of employment or region)

Have these surveys made an explicit distinction between globalisation and the process of European integration, by, for example, distinguishing between relocation of production to other EU Member States and relocation to countries outside the EU or between the take-over of domestic companies by EU-owned firms and take-over by a non-EU companies?


Emma Cervino, CIREM

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