HRM in Spain

In their account of the human resource management field in Spain, Florez- Saborido, Gonzales-Rendon, and Alcaide-Castro (1995) pointed to the authoritarian legacy of the Franco regime (1939-1975), during which there was an absence of free labor unions and a wide scope for lawful dismissal. With Spain’s change to democratic government, the major focus of personnel management was on the reduction of labor conflict, which resulted in a series of agreements on procedural rules governing the contents of collective bargaining in the first half of the 1980s. Nevertheless, institutional structures still remain weak, thereby granting management great autonomy (Lucio, 1992).

Although the unions in Spain have increased their influence since 1975, the degree of influence over managerial decisions enjoyed by Scandinavian unions or German unions and works councils remains much greater. Moreover, the bargaining effectiveness of unions varies widely between provinces and regions, in large part because of their relatively poor financial and organizational resources (Lucio, 1992). The main focus of the two big labor federations, the UGT and the Workers’ Commissions, has been on limiting changes to the rules governing employers’ liability to redundancy costs. But their general weakness has simply resulted in employers side-stepping the legislation to achieve numerical flexibility by negotiating individual employment contracts. Hence, in 1996 only 4.1 percent of all new employment contracts were for full-time permanent jobs, bringing the total of all wage earners in temporary employment to more than onethird (Financial Times, 1997). Furthermore, it must be expected that Spanish employers, essentially conservative and paternalistic and uninhibited by union influence, will have a particular propensity for adopting calculative human resource management practices.

With regard to collaborative practices, a comprehensive and detailed regulative pressure on Spanish firms in the field of human resource management has evolved during the 1980s and 1990s as a response to the many variations of employment contracts. As noted by Florez-Saborido, GonzalesRendon, and Alcaide-Castro (1995: 240), “this wide range of contractual arrangements generated a complex system, in which clear, common rules did not exist …. The government followed a gradualist type strategy in introducing greater contractual freedom, but the process also produced unnecessary administrative complexity and legal insecurity for the employer.” In addition to this operational constraint, the personnel function in Spanish firms has also historically been underdeveloped and generally has had no other function than to serve relatively autocratic managements. Hence, personnel practices in Spain have exhibited a reactive and highly operatively oriented character, with specialist personnel departments in possession of scarce resources and limited status. As Baruel (1996) noted, Spanish firms have substantially disregarded novel developments within the human resource management field, meaning that collaborative practices can be expected to be rare.

As indicated, Spain is characterized by weak labor unions without any significant influence on worklife and by a substantial managerial autonomy. At the same time, the personnel function has traditionally been highly operatively oriented, lacking the opportunity to introduce collaborative human resource management practices.

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