Spanish Port, Valencia, Barcelona

Spanish port workers have called off a series of planned labour actions. Four days after the Spanish parliament rejected a plan to deregulate longshore labor, the International Dockworkers Council canceled its plans to hold a day of action in support of Spanish dockers.

“This is a step forward, but also a great opportunity given to us by the opposition parliamentary groups,” said IDC general coordinator Jordi Aragunde. “Dockworkers, together with the government and employers, can come to an agreement on the best conditions for the remodeling of the Spanish Port Model and for complying with the ruling of the European Court of Justice.”

Aragunde added that the support of dockers around the world had helped to convince the Spanish parliament and the public that the proposed reform measures were “reckless, dishonest, and harmful to the interests of the working class.”

Under current Spanish law, port employers have to hire stevedores from designated local staffing companies, or SAGEPs (Sociedad Anónima de Gestión de Estibadores Portuarios), all of which are unionized. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that this arrangement was a violation of EU laws on freedom of establishment, and it ordered Spain to open up the system to competition.

Spain’s minister of public works, Íñigo de la Serna, announced a liberalization plan to comply with the EU court order in February. Under de la Serna’s proposed decree, port employers would have been able to phase out SAGEP labor over a three-year period, and could have substituted temporary workers or other forms of non-union labor instead. Thanks to heavy opposition from the Socialist party and the Citizens (Ciudadanos) party, the Spanish parliament rejected his proposal last Thursday.

In the wake of the vote, de la Serna told press that “the pockets of our citizens will end up paying for their effort to lash out at the government.” Spain is already paying daily fines to the EU for its failure to comply with the court ruling, and if its government does not reach a reform agreement with labor and the opposition parties soon, the fines will increase to more than $140,000 per day ($4.2 million per month).


The Maritime Executive