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From action to communication? Explaining the changing context of worker occupations as direct forms of action with reference to the case of contemporary Spain

Miguel Martínez Lucio (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The relative absence of worker occupations in recent years in a context of major restructuring and unemployment has raised issues in Spain as to the changing nature of specific forms of direct action. This paper seeks to argue that it is important, in the case of Spain, to discuss how worker occupations have been changing and developing over time if the changing pattern, character and impact of worker unrest and direct action is to be understood.

Design/methodology/approach

The research materials for this paper are based on a series of meetings and interviews with union officers and activists that draw on various projects on union development in Spain during the years 1983‐1988, 2000‐2002 and 2009‐2010, and the study of a range of secondary texts.

Findings

The paper suggests that, as well as discussing questions of motives, whether economic or political, accounting for the socio‐economic context and the changing nature of the workforce in terms of its degree of concentration, the changing nature of labour market stability, and the relationship of workers to “stable” workplaces and work is required. Additionally, there is a need to account for how workers reference and recall (or not) previous modes of mobilising and actions.

Practical implications

Discussing worker occupations should involve issues of political purpose, economic context, the changing nature of work and workers, and the role of memory and historical framing if an appreciation of their varying nature and presence within the landscape of labour relations is to be made. Hence, a multi‐dimensional understanding of the context of worker action is required.

Social implications

The implications of the paper are that conflict of work needs to be understood in broader terms, and that worker related activities can be highly innovative.

Originality/value

The paper examines union and worker responses to the current recession in Spain and focuses on the role and context of unofficial approaches, especially worker occupations, to the changing workplace.

Keywords

Citation

Martínez Lucio, M. (2011), "From action to communication? Explaining the changing context of worker occupations as direct forms of action with reference to the case of contemporary Spain", Employee Relations, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 654-669. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425451111174120

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited