Global support for Spanish dockers facing unilateral labour reform

15 Feb 2017

The Spanish government is determined to pursue a unilateral reform of the port labour scheme thereby ignoring the proposals made by the social partners. Following a call from ETF and ITF, unions from all over the globe have sent protest letters to the Spanish minister for public works, calling for an immediate halt of the legislative process and urging to get back to the negotiating table with the social partners. 

The reform of the Spanish law on port labour is required by a judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from December 2014 that sanctions the labour scheme as being non-compliant with the principle of the Freedom of Establishment (Article 49 of the TFEU). Yesterday, 14 February, the social partners met the Minister for a last attempt to reopening the negotiating table and avoid industrial action. 

José Manuel Perez-Vega Artime, Federal Secretary for maritime and ports from FEMCT-UGT, explained that “The way the government is proceeding is unacceptable. The reform was on the table for so long, but the neither the present nor the previous governments have ever meant to engage in a meaningful dialogue. They are trying to put us in the corner, hiding behind the fines that are being applied by the Commission for not having implemented what required by the judgement. However, dismissing the current Dockers, as the government is planning to, would cost as much as paying the EU fines for more than eight years. It was clear from the start of the meeting yesterday that the Minister is determined to go his way ”. 

We are following very closely the developments in Spain along with our affiliates FSC-CCOO and FESMC-UGT,” said ETF General Secretary  Eduardo Chagas. “This is the Port Packages coming through the backdoor. It is a crucial struggle not only for Dockers but for all transport workers in Europe. The proposal from the Spanish government contains very worrying elements that would open up Spanish ports to social dumping. This goes against all principles that the ETF and its affiliates are promoting to make transport in Europe fair. We will be standing by our affiliates and all Spanish Dockers with any lawful means we have. 

Jorge Garcia Faerna from FSC.CCOO, who is also Vice-Chair of the ETF Dockers’ Section declared “The outstanding international support we are receiving makes us stronger. After yesterday’s meeting with the Minister we have no choice but to take industrial action. There are other possible ways to bring the Spanish legislation in line with EU rules, but the government was just not willing to explore them. The propaganda that was spread around about the Spanish Dockers’ terms and conditions just shows how desperate this government is to get rid of us.” He concluded “One thing is clear, we are not giving up and will continue our fight at political and industrial level.”

The Royal Decree-Law is likely to be approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday 17 February. The government will then have one month to get it adopted by the Congress by simple majority. In case no majority is reached, there will be the possibility for the members of parliament to table amendments. 

ETF/ITF and its affiliates are currently planning actions to support the Spanish Dockers.