EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Mataró, Spain: Recruitment, training and development


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Glass and cement
Target Groups: 
Other non-manualProfessional/managerialSkilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
developmentetcFlexible working practicesRecruitmentTraining


Organisational background


Cristalleries Mataró (Mataró Glassworks), established in 1920, is a workers’ cooperative and a member of the Catalan Federation of Work Cooperatives. It manufactures objects from blown and pressed glass, such as light bulbs, screens, lampshades, underwater equipment, operating theatre equipment and home decoration products. Based in Mataró, an industrial city near Barcelona, the company currently exports to France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the Scandinavian countries.

Cristalleries Mataró has an annual turnover of about €14 million. In 2005, some 85% of the profit primarily resulted from exports and 15% came from the internal market.

The cooperative employs 210 people, of whom 27% are women. The average age is 42 years. A total of 66 employees are over 50 years of age, which corresponds to 30% of the workforce. There are two types of employees: cooperative members and paid workers. The average age of cooperative members, currently 44 years, is higher than that of paid workers, averaging 33 years.

Most of the workers have acquired professional training, but some are less skilled, having only been educated to primary level. There are seven senior experts who are university graduates.

The cooperative’s mission is to maintain employment levels and to provide the necessary training to employees to enhance the company profile, while promoting the ethos that the workforce is a highly valuable company resource.

The company’s delegates committee, which is part of the board of directors, acts as a works council for social issues within the company, including issues related to working hours and wages. The works council is representative of all employees.

The original initiative

At the end of 2004, the new managing director reviewed a number of measures in the company’s organisational structure. He revised the company’s objectives based on the existing workforce profile, the impact of new technology on production, and the future prospects of the local market situation. Results of the study provided evidence of a progressively ageing workforce, particularly among the cooperative members. In line with the cooperative’s aims, it was decided to develop a strategy to encourage and maintain older workers in their current roles for as long as possible and to reduce the number of older employees availing of early retirement schemes.

Achieving the aims of this strategy involved the introduction of three new pilot initiatives:

  • mentoring and training of staff;
  • employment of experienced coaches and the integration of people aged over 60 years in management positions;
  • recruitment of older workers from the local labour market.

These new initiatives have resulted in the creation of positive internal relationships between older and younger workers, and also between management and employees. The training development plan, the system of coaching staff, and the integration of employees over 60 years of age in management positions guarantee an ongoing transfer of knowledge and experience from older to younger staff.

Good practice today

Cristalleries Mataró aims to create a good working relationship with its employees, which has led the company to take significant steps towards creating a human resources policy that incorporates a positive outlook on age. All staff are regarded as an important company resource, but older employees are particularly valued, due to their level of experience and their ongoing transfer of knowledge within the company. Older employees feel valued for their efforts and recognise the importance of the tasks that they carry out, such as training younger workers.

The 2004 annual report summarises the cooperative’s values and principles in a quotation by Charles Guide: ‘If the cooperative is business only, it is a bad business’. The company policies of positive social responsibility and non-discrimination on the grounds of age are based on this philosophy.

Building on this company ethos, a system of good practice has been promoted within the company in terms of the newly introduced initiatives.

Mentoring and training of staff

A training plan aimed at younger employees has been put in place since the end of 2004, based on cooperation between the quality control department of Mataró Glassworks and the corporate social responsibility programme (RSE.COOP) of the Confederation of Catalan Cooperatives (CCC). Older employees are given a mentoring role within the plan, thereby integrating workers who were already in gradual retirement.

As part of this plan, employees over 50 years of age take on the function of training and assessing younger workers. The more experienced older employees work alongside their younger colleagues carrying out the same tasks and mentoring them on various aspects of the job. This process allows the transfer of experience, as well as technical and methodological knowledge, from older to younger workers. In other words, the older employees not only carry out the required production tasks, but also provide on-the-job training.

The training is based on a ‘relay contract’, as set out in the Spanish Law 35/2002 on measures to establish a system of gradual and flexible retirement. Employees aged over 50 years, who have this kind of contract, can devote 25% of their time assessing and training younger employees who have entered the company by means of the relay contract. This training has been approved by the city council. Training is scheduled daily during a period from six to 12 months. Currently, 15 cooperative associates aged over 50 years, who have a relay contract, participate in this programme. They act as trainers for 15 female workers contracted by the cooperative from the textiles sector, and also for four young recruits in their probationary period who have yet to complete their higher education.

Employment of experienced coaches and integration of older people in management positions

This initiative enhances professional training within the company’s structure, with the aim of attaining operational and strategic objectives that will result in company growth. It applies primarily to managers who want to overcome certain professional hurdles with the help of an experienced company coach. This measure aims to improve efficiency, performance and decision-making.

Currently, both the management of the company and the development of the strategic plan are led by an expert who is over 60 years old and in early retirement, but who carries out this work voluntarily. His mission is to lead the company for a limited number of years, from 2005 to 2010, to participate actively in the strategic plan, and to prepare two female executives for top management positions.

This manager is a member of the Spanish SECOT association (an association of retired voluntary experts for business management and consultancy), which has a partnership contract with the Glassworks cooperative to assist with training and promotional activities. The collaboration aims to facilitate an active professional career for older workers, the maintenance of accumulated expertise for the benefit of company needs, and the transfer of experience between sectors.

Recruitment of older workers

The primary objective of the RSE.COOP programme, piloted by the CCC, is the integration into the labour market of those aged over 50 years, as well as unemployed women who have previously worked for companies in the region, particularly in the textiles sector, which is currently in recession. In this way, the project sustains local employment as the majority of candidates for employment are from Mataró and surrounding areas.

An agreement with the city council and the employment office of the Catalan government allows for the recruitment of these new workers. For each one of these new employees, the cooperative organises an induction course aimed at integration and focusing on the specifics of the new sector, a welcome programme, and internal training.

Since 2000, some 65 people have entered the company through this system, of whom 85% have been manual or non-professional workers and 15% have been professional workers. All of these new employees are over 50 years old: 62% are aged 50–55 years, 28% are aged 55–60 years, and only one is aged 61 years.


Cristalleries Mataró implemented these three initiatives as pilot measures in the management area and, so far, employees have been enthusiastic as they view the project as a valuable human resources policy that will improve the workers’ knowledge and experience as well as the quality and efficiency of production. At the same time, the company looks positively at the possibilities that the new legal regulation of the relay contract law can offer.

Moreover, the delegates committee is involved in putting all company initiatives into practice. This fosters good working relationships between the company and staff members as both the members of the delegates committee and the company employees are involved in setting up the initiatives. The openness within the company has led to a greater awareness of age issues among all employees. Cristalleries Mataró hopes to develop these initiatives further in the future as it is considered a good strategy for improving corporate social responsibility.

Further information

Contact: Josep Isern Triadu, Staff Director of Cristalleries Mataró



Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment