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72 Working Paper

Collective Bargaining under EMU: Lessons from the Italian and Spanish Experiences

2000 Sofia A. Perez


This paper seeks to shed light on the question of the likely evolution of collective bargaining in Europe under EMU by considering the experiences of two countries (Italy and Spain) in which governments and social actors attempted to decentralized collective bargaining during the 1980s only to opt in favor of a re-centralization of bargaining during the 1990s. The paper argues that the experiences of Italy and Spain offer two kinds of insights for our understanding of the future evolution of wage bargaining in the EU. On the one hand, they illustrate why governments and social actors may come to favor a consolidation of the structure of bargaining under EMU rather than opt for a further decentralization of bargaining. On the other hand, they also suggest that any such process of consolidation faces great obstacles in moving beyond the national level. The recent experiences of Italy and Spain thus lead us to conclude that the most likely outcome in the EU is that of a reaffirmation of the national and national/sectoral-levels of bargaining within member states, rather than either a radical decentralization of bargaining across the EU, or an effective shift to EU-level bargaining.