GHIGLIANI Pablo Esteban
congresos y reuniones científicas
Shopfloor democracy and workers' organising: building resistance in the Buenos Aires's underground
Conferencia; 25th Annual Employement Research Unit. Conference 2010; 2010
Institución organizadora:
Business School University of Cardiff
The interest in the idea and practice of democracy in the everyday reality of trade unions is an old topic that has always been present in academic and militant debates (Hyman 1975; Offe and Wiesenthal 1980; Stepan-Norris and Zeitlin 1995). However, very often, the debate on workers´ and workplace democracy has been constrained within the opposing bureaucratic and anti-bureaucratic visions of trade unionism. This approach has favoured, on the one hand, an abstract critique of bureaucratic leaderships and, on the other, the sublimation of grass-roots institutions and forms of representation as its counterbalance at the workplace. Whereas this emphasis has been important to show that union democracy is the result of a complex interaction between the context and the nature of the decision making process, it has tended to leave unexplored the concrete role of agency, strategy and ideology in building democracy at the workplace in the face of managerial and official union leadership opposition. Moreover, the relations existing between use of both formal and informal democratic and participatory practices and the construction of workers´ organisations remain unclear. The paper presented aims to shed light on some of these issues using the case of the Buenos Aires´s underground workers. In Argentina, where top-down structures of union government prevail based on legal arrangements and embedded in unions´ tradition, the case of underground workers comes up as exceptional due to their ability to challenge union bureaucratic leaderships, extend union democracy, encourage workers´ participation while keeping bitter and successful labour disputes with management. Since 2002, putting democracy at the centre of a conscious strategy used in strengthening shop-floor organising, underground workers increased their wages, reduced the working days, stopped outsourcing, and improved terms and conditions of employment. These improvements that first went together with the emergence of a new grass-root leadership later consolidated in a new horizontal, democratic and shop floor based trade union.