Dissertation Abstracts

Social Movements and Trade Unionism in times of crisis. The portuguese case: alliances or latent tensions?

Author: Dora Fonseca, dorajfonseca@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Coimbra, Portugal
Supervisor: Elísio Estanque
Year of completion: 2016
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Austerity , trade unions , social movements , articulation
Areas of Research: Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change , Labor Movements , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management


The period between 2011 and 2013 was one of strong political contestation. Broad sectors of civil society were mobilised to oppose the austerity societies, shaping a protest cycle where the indignation was the dominant note. Trade unions were also mobilised, and the period was marked by several general strikes, numerous sectoral strikes and by other protest actions with a trade union nature. In Portugal, the actors involved in the contestations faced a context marked by the economic, social and political deterioration of the country. Even so, and although this situation spurred the emergence of several collective actors who fit in the spectrum of the network of social movements, it has also created obstacles to the trade unions movement already weakened by the various aspects associated with the unionism crisis, particularly the accelerated decay of labour relations and its tendency to precariousness. Trade unions movement and social movements were also confronted with the amplification of the crisis in Europe. The resemblance of goals and the situation of threat (in the sense that, if nothing was done, the imposition of austerity would progress to unsustainable levels) has placed trade unions and social movements side by side, outlining the possibility of a collaboration/articulation strategy between them. For social movements and its organisations, strategies of collaboration/articulation could strengthen their action and contribute to the accomplishment of their aspirations. While for trade unions, collaboration/articulation strategies could foster new frameworks for action and new goals in a context of unionism renewal. In this sense, the two main interests that guide this study are interrelated. On one hand, it maps the collective actors that staged the contestation and protests during the period of greatest incidence of the imposed austerity in Portugal. To this, it is carried out a characterization of these actors based on their objectives, forms of organisation, dynamics within and between organisations, strategies adopted and mobilisation processes undertaken by them. This mapping also covers collective actors focused on combating precariousness. On the other, it seeks to identify the points of articulation between trade unions and social movements in the context of their opposition to austerity, which refers to the identification and analysis of collaboration/articulation strategies between these actors, focusing particularly on the factors that conditioned or limited these relationships. Regarding trade unionism, the study focuses on CGTP, while in the field of social movements several case studies are analysed. They are: Platform of the Intermittent of Spectacle and Audiovisual (PIEA), Ferve – Fed Up With These Green Receipts, MayDay, Inflexible Precarious, Desperate Generation, 15th October (15O) and Screw the Troika. The case studies were discussed from a qualitative methodology approach. The actors, processes and relationships that are the focus of this study are of enormous complexity. In this sense, the conclusion constituted a reflection that seeks to bring together some of the puzzle pieces and thus show ways for the future connections between the trade unions and social movements.

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