Spanish Dockworkers to Face Massive Layoffs?

Image Courtesy: Offshore and Home Trade Seamen's Welfare Trust

At least 6,500 Spanish dockworkers could be laid off according to the recently announced plan by the country’s Minister of Public Works to reform the port system. 

Inigo de la Serna, the minister, aims to launch a decree issued by the European Union Court of Justice to reform the Spanish Port System, which would result in firing Spanish dockworkers at a rate of 25% of their full strength each year.

This means an absolute extinction of their employment within three years, according to the International  Dockworkers Council (IDC). Dismissed dockworkers are to receive severance packages of only 20 paid days per year worked, IDC explained.

“The Spanish Government threatens the growth of the Spanish economy and seeks to make the dockworker profession disappear from national ports,” Jordi Aragunde, IDC General Coordinator, stated.

“Spanish ports are growing. The workers’ wages are also growing… and the Ministry of Public Works intends to act on a decree that prevents the country’s economic recovery,” Aragunde added.

Following the decree, the minister revealed he will not seek dialogue with trade unions to determine how to best carry out the mandatory reform of the Spanish Port System.

The announcement came as a surprise to many, including the Spanish trade union Coordinadora, as the minister’s actions are a “stark contradiction” to the platform maintained by his predecessor Ana Pastor, who always sought sector consensus of both interested companies and unions before enacting changes that would inevitably affect both, IDC said.

As explained by IDC, de la Serna’s decision to resist dialogue and assume an authoritarian attitude towards the inevitable implementation of a new Spanish Port System is viewed by port workers as a deliberate attack on their livelihood.

“We feel cheated,” Antolín Goya, General Coordinator of Coordinadora, said, adding that the minister refused to provide any documentation about the new legislation to the trade union and that he insists on verbal communication only.

“Since Brussels will only work officially with the Spanish government, de la Serna’s refusal to share these documents means that he is dictating the terms of this plan himself,” according to IDC.

“We have met with the European Commissioner for Transport, and we know that the Spanish Government´s approach to this law is much more severe for workers than the actual decree suggests” Goya noted.

Spanish trade unions are expected to raise support from other groups to resist the modification of the country’s port system.

With the support of the International Dockworkers Council, Coordinadora plans to initiate union actions across Europe to demand “clear channels of communication and a seat at the table for port workers” to be able to discuss the implementation of the new system.

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