CEIL   02670
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
capítulos de libros
The Re-emergence of Workplace Based Organisation as the New Expression of Conflict in Argentina
New Forms and Expressions of Conflict at Work
Lugar: Londres; Año: 2013; p. 66 - 85
Since the turn of the century, labour conflict in Argentina has taken on a wide and diverse range of forms and expressions influenced by economic cycles and changing political conditions. In the context of economic stagnation and unemployment surrounding the 2001 crisis, workers? demands were framed within wider patterns of social mobilization which saw less significance attached to union-led mobilization. This was the time of road occupations by the initiative of the unemployed to demand productive employment, and of the factories occupations ? the so- called ?recovered factories? - by which workers defended their jobs and reinvented it under workers? control. Both processes gained worldwide resonance and have been analysed widely in the international literature (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2007, Bryer 2010, Dinerstein 2002, 2008, Grigera 2006).However, since the economic recovery of 2003 the return to more traditional labour conflicts and the revitalisation of unions together with the increase of collective bargaining have taken place. This renewed strength of Argentinean unions has been explained by a combination of economic, political and institutional variables, inter alia, economic and employment growth, which resulted in a steady reduction of unemployment rates (Kosacoff 2010), government emphasis in employment generation and collective bargaining (Palomino and Trajtemberg 2006), and the role given to central unions confederations in tripartite bodies (Etchemendy and Collier 2007). This context has produced fertile soil for the re-emergence of the democratic and initiative aspects of unionism which, on the one hand, have given room to grassroots mobilisations and direct actions that empowered workers at the workplace and, on the other hand, has favoured a renewal of strategies and leaderships, framing these within a more leftist discourse. Although these can hardly be considered as new phenomena in Argentinean union history, their relevance goes beyond an assertion of pure novelty. These bottom-up initiatives, even if proportionally few, have nonetheless represented through their emphasis on participation and democracy a qualitative step forward with respect to traditional union representation and methods of struggle. In turn, this has re-instilled in Argentina a debate on union democracy and forms of workers? representation while at the same time expressing in everyday demands the most radical opposition to neo-liberalism. In this sense, the renewed visibility of workplace-based organisations, the so-called comisiones internas (shop floor commissions), a distinctive trait in the structure of labour unionism in Argentina and historically one of the sources of workers? power (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2011, Basualdo 2009, Lenguita and Varela 2011), can be seen as an important and promising novelty and development in the field of workers? struggle. A detailed analysis of some of the emblematic cases and of the practices adopted by workers, while contributing to discussions about new forms and expressions of conflict and to existing debates on unions renewal more in general (Fairbrother 2000, Hyman 2004, Phelan 2007, Gall 2009), also offers the opportunity to engage with debates on i) unions? nature as both movements and institutions (Cohen 2006), ii) the never ending democracy versus bureaucracy debate (Darlington and Upchurch 2012, Belkin and Ghigliani 2010, Hyman 1975, 1979, Martínez Lucio 2012, Norris and Zeitlin 1995), and iii) the role of leadership, particularly leftwing, and workplace collective action (Beynon 1984, Cohen 2011, Darlington 1994, 2002, 2006, Fantasia 1988, Gall 2003). Using these theoretical debates as a background, after a section giving a brief description of key cases, this chapter is structured around three main areas of analysis in which it focuses upon the following a) the main determinants in the recurrence of these ?movement type? union, b) the continuing tensions existing between grassroots initiatives aspiration to democracy and participation and the need to adopt institutionalising practices in their everyday functioning, and c) the role of leaders in framing collective action and the tension existing between this role and internal democracy.