IDC: Spanish Gov’t Agrees to Negotiate Port Reform with Dockworkers

Illustration; Image Courtesy: The Northwest Maritime Academy

Spanish government has succumbed to the pressure of unions and decided to join the negotiating table with dockworkers on the announced port reform plan, the International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC) said.

Namely, as a consequence of the recently announced plan by Inigo de la Serna, the Spanish Minister of Public Works, at least 6,500 dockworkers could be laid off in the future.

The plan is in line with a decree issued by the Court of Justice of the Union European Union and it inititally did not include feedback from trade unions on a potential solution that would best implement the mandatory reform of the port system in Spain.

In recent days, representatives of tens of thousands of dockworkers from the five continents have sent letters to the Spanish union Coordinadora, the country’s Minister of Public Works Inigo de la Serna, as well as to several Spanish embassies and consulates, urging them to find a solution to end the conflict started ten days ago.

Following the unions’ calls the Spanish Ministry of Public Works has decided to pursue negotiation with workers and review proposals from both parties, given that at last Friday’s meeting no proposal was presented, IDC informed.

For now, the workers await next Tuesday’s ruling by the Ministry. In case workers’ demands are not met, Spanish trade unions will go on strike on February 20, 22 and 24, 2017.

In the words of Jordi Aragunde, the IDC’s General Coordinator“the Spanish Government must overturn an agreement which 90% of the companies have already signed with the workers, and then proceed to make their own agreement which complies with the European Commission´s judgement in the Court of Luxembourg – which has required the Kingdom of Spain modify the existing stowage model.”

“The European Commission neither drafts the jurisprudence of each Member State nor legislates. This is done by each country in a particular way; Spain, in this case,” Aragunde explained.

Aragunde further said that it is important for the dockers that the agreement with the government complies with Convention 137 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) which ensures the permanent and regular employment of dockworkers, maintains registers for all categories of dockworkers, and states that registered dockworkers should have priority for dock work. The convention is respected in most countries with maritime traffic, especially when it is ratified by a member state, according to Aragunde.

In addition, IDC plans to organize an emergency meeting of its zone coordinators (Europe, Africa, West Coast of North America and Pacific, East Coast of North America, Oceania, and Latin America) in Algeciras, Spain, on February 21 to analyze the situation and give a joint and forceful response to the demands made from Spain.

“The conflict should be met with the opportunity of establishing channels of dialogue in good faith and, if necessary, with the presence of European Commission officials. In this way, we can prevent the Spanish economy from suffering consequences. In this sense, the current unilateral decision on the table risks the security of the entire port sector and endangers import and export of Spanish goods in ports,” the general coordinator pointed out.

“We have not ruled out proposing actions to influence the movement of Spanish commodities, in case no agreement is reached,” Aragunde added.

This would not be the first time that the international workers’ union has taken measures to paralyze or delay the unloading of consumer goods from other countries where the improvement of working conditions is being negotiated, in an effort that governments agree to negotiate with the trade union.

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