The Economic Effects of Unions in Latin America: Their Impact on Wages and the Economic Performance of Firms in Uruguay
This study examines the impact of unionization and the level of centralization in bargaining, at the level of the industry or the firm, on wages and on the economic performance of firms within the manufacturing sector in Uruguay, using a panel of establishments for the period 1988 to 1995. In doing so, we control for the degree of exposure to international and regional competition as well as for industry and firm characteristics. The main findings suggest that unionization increases wages and employment and promotes investment due to firms substituting labor by capital. Unions tend to organize in those plants with highest rates of profits, but promote increases in productivity and prevent profitability increases. The mechanism at work seems to be that firms moved to more capital-intensive technologies, hence increasing the rate of growth of labor productivity and reducing that of profitability. Given the negative effect of unionization at the industry level on the rate of growth of profitability of firms, results also suggest that unions tended to organize and to be stronger in those sectors in which extra rents were higher due to monopoly power. The evidence also suggests that firm-level negotiations take into account the interests of both parties, so that enhanced productivity and probably survival were achieved together with lower rates of substitution between labor and capital and/or lower profits.
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