Bargaining wages
: trade unions and ruling coalitions in post-transition Chile and Uruguay

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


is argued that centre-left governments are better placed to ensure welfare state responses, which in turn has an impact on poverty and inequality. Why have the centre-left coalitions of two countries like Chile and Uruguay, had different impacts on wage bargaining? This dissertation offers a political economy approach to understanding the adoption of wage policy and the resulting policy consequences. My dissertation argues there are three elements that define wage policy outcomes. First, the nature of democratic transitions helps to shape the formation of redistributive or growth-oriented reform coalitions. Secondly, I look at whether government coalitions are embedded with trade unions agendas. Thirdly, I argue that legislative participation of constituency matters for ensuring the implementation of active wage policy. To test these arguments, I analyse the cases of Chile and Uruguay. In the case of Chile, democratic transition shaped the willingness of Concertación to reform the collective bargaining legacy of the military regime. Consequently, minimum wages were used as active policies, benefiting low income workers but with no impact on income distribution. On the contrary, in Uruguay, where institutional restrictions were absent, wage policy fluctuated according to Governments’ preferences. With Frente Amplio in power, a coalition with strong linkage to trade union agendas, both minimum wages and collective bargaining were used actively in a context of a legislative majority with a high presence of trade union-linked legislators. I use a combination of methods to test these arguments. Accordingly, I include historical research, electoral and legislative data, semi-structured elite interviews and process tracing to analyse how relevant actors bargained the nature and outcomes of wage policies and their connection to other social policies. This research work makes two contributions. To the industrial relations literature, it offers a political economy approach for a better understanding of the connections of minimum wages and collective bargaining over time. Second, it improves the existing political economy literature by focusing on the question of the importance of how the embeddedness of constituency has an impact on the expansion of socioeconomic policy.
Date of Award1 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAndres Mejia Acosta (Supervisor) & Peter Kingstone (Supervisor)

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