Spain's Government, Port Unions on Collision Course

file Image: the port of Barcelona, Spain (CREDIT: AdobeStock)

Posted by Joseph Keefe

Spain's cabinet passed a draft law on Friday to end
closed-shop hiring at the country's ports, putting the government
on a collision course with unions which have called nine days of
strikes that are likely to decimate trade flows.

Around two-thirds of Spain's imports and exports pass through its
ports, and prolonged industrial action could be especially
painful for the country's automobile industry and chemical

The bill, which attempts to bring Spain's restrictive port labour
practices into line with the rest of Europe, still faces an
uncertain passage through parliament.

The governing People's Party does not enjoy a parliamentary
majority and will need to reach an accord with opposition parties
if the draft is to become law.

Companies currently have no say over hiring and firing at Spanish
ports. The new law aims to permit them to chose their own staff
rather than being bound by union-approved lists.

"This is the only economic sector where there isn't free hiring
in our country," Industry Minister Inigo de la Serna said on
Friday after a weekly cabinet meeting.

"We're convinced we are going to reach an agreement on this
matter with the unions as soon as possible, if there is
willingness on their part to do so."

Spain has already paid 21.5 million euros ($22.8 million) in
fines since 2014 for failing to bring port labour practices in
line with EU norms, de la Serna said on Friday. If the new law is
not implemented soon, the fine would rise to more than 134,000
euros a day, he said.

The dockers' unions are planning to strike for 12 hours a day,
every other day barring weekends, from March 6 to March 24, a
system they say will allow urgent cargo to be processed.

Reporting by Paul Day

Feb 24, 2017

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