Borders, Labour Impacts, and Union Responses: Case of Spain

Luke Stobart

Abstract


Spain is an acute example of severe yet permissive border control where institutional frameworks ensure that migrant labour inexpensively fills existing labour shortages and highly exploitative “niches,” while aiding a broader flexibilization strategy. Through a review of mainly Spanish research by trade union, industrial relations, and immigration specialists on three major migrant employment sectors, the article shows that impacts on employment and wage levels have been limited, despite claims to the contrary, although they have been deeper in those employment sectors with reduced legal protection and union organization. It concludes that while the Spanish case gives support to the No Borders position, it also exposes the need for greater engagement with migrant workers by the trade unions and rejects the major Spanish union federations’ recent advocacy of “controlled immigration.”

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