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Papel del Estado en las relaciones industriales en América Latina

Papel del Estado en las relaciones industriales en América Latina

Volume : 44-1 (1989)


Political, social and economic changes are now occuring at a rapid pace in Latin America. Countries are evolving from liberal to participative capitalism, from autocraties to democracies, and vice- versa, and from prosperity to economic crisis. There is a permanent state of turmoil and continuity is the exception. Countries that will be referred to are those which have achieved a sufficient degree of economic development and which possess a representative political System based on an elected civilian government, namely: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In all these countries, the role of the state in industrial relations and the process of capital accumulation are evolving gradually without to much disturbance from labour or social unrest. This analysis has corne to the following conclusions:

1. In Latin America, State interventionism has characterized industrial relations. This situation is the result of historical factors which have provided the states with tremendous powers to control economic activity and the development of the labour movement. One exception to this general rule is the case of Uruguay, a country with special characteristics such as premature economic and political modernization and cultural homogeneity.

2. State intervention in industrial relations has first taken the form of institutional arrangements such as legislative frameworks but it was also accompanied by protectionist organisms: In many cases, the State resorts to military or police forces, which is an indication of the lack of maturity of these industrial relations Systems.

3. The most conventional instruments of State interventionism in industrial relations are the various agencies associated with the Ministry or Secretary of Labour. However, these institutions have been characterized, over the last few years, by revolved structures and a very conservative approach. In the mean time, the most active State policies in industrial relations have corne through the Ministry of Economy or the Ministry of Finance.

4. The consequences of the recent economic crisis have been unequal for capital and labour: decreases in salaries, increases of unemployment; deterioration of public services and hence, of the quality of life. If recent economic and social policies developed by the various states do not succeed in correcting these trends, labour relations will become more conflictual. So far, their efficiency has been very limited. In order to reverse some of the trends mentioned above, states will have to adopt strategies that may influence their external debt and their economic growth.

5. Some states have tried social concertation but with very little success. If this situation continues to prevail, the institution will lose its credibility vis-à-vis the social actors involved.

6. Finally, the modernization and reforms which are taking place in indus trial relations would have more chances of being effective if they were occurring within more democratic Systems. Industrial relations involve pluralism, consensus, and coexistence. Latin American democracies need industrial relations practices which will help reinforce the respective political Systems.