António Dornelas Award

CES researchers win 5th edition of the António Dornelas Award

January 2022

The book Poderes sindicais em debate: desafios e oportunidades na Autoeuropa, TAP e PT/Altice, a result of the research project “Rebuilding trade union power in the age of austerity: a review of three sectors”, carried out at the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra (FEUC), was one of the winning works of the António Dornelas Award (2021).

Authored by Hermes Augusto CostaElísio Estanque (CES researchers and professors at the Faculty of Economics - UC), Dora Fonseca and Manuel Carvalho da Silva (CES researchers), the study starts by discussing (in the first part) the discourses on union crisis in the framework of an international literature review on “power resources” (structural, associative, institutional and societal). In the second part of the book six criteria of analysis are proposed for (re)affirming unionism: representativeness; qualification; conflict/negotiation; national/international; public/private; innovation. Finally, the third part of the book carries out an extensive analysis of union behaviour in three sectors subject to transformation and restructuring (metallurgy, transportation and telecommunications) and, in particular, in the environment of three strategic companies in the Portuguese economy - Autoeuropa, TAP and PT/Altice.

For each case study semi-structured interviews were carried out with national and international trade union contacts as well as focus groups with union and workers committees’ leaders. The research allowed us to observe an asymmetric evolution of union power resources, both in relation to each other and to the sector of activity. Structural power and institutional power showed signs of greater weakness across the board, which is partly explained by the effects of the implementation of the Troika Memorandum and changes in labour legislation (only partially reversed in the post-austerity period). On the other hand, the associative and societal powers showed some positive signs (albeit tentative). On the one hand, the generality of the studied unions invoked a tenuous associative recovery (mainly among the more precarious segments of workers and also as a response to privatization processes or as a result of specific conflict processes). On the other hand, some union demands have been legitimized in the eyes of public opinion (the case of the “transfer of establishment” in PT/Altice or the “Não TAP os olhos”  movement are just two examples).

This research allowed us to identify cross-cutting themes and point out some of the common problems that the labour field and unionism will have to face, particularly with the new economic and social crisis induced by the Covid-19 pandemic. With funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT/MEC) through national funds, and co-financed by FEDER through the Competitiveness and Innovation Operational Programme COMPETE 2020 under the project PTDC/IVC-SOC/3533/2014 - POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016808.

This award, given by the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, through its Office of Strategy and Planning (GEP-MTSSS), aims to honour university professor António Dornelas, sociologist, specialist in labour issues, coordinator of the 2006 Green Paper on Labour Relations: Livro Verde das Relações Laborais de 2006, researcher at the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, advisor to the President of the Republic for Labour and Social Affairs and Secretary of State for Labour and Training.