Eight-day strike to hit Spanish ports

May 16, 2017 – Spanish trade unions called eight days of strikes for late May in protest of the government’s proposed stevedore labour reforms, while sources in Spain claim worker productivity has already intentionally decreased.

Unions proclaimed that they would hold strikes from May 24 until June 9, during odd hours on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in response to the Council of Ministers’ decision to adopt the reforms on May 12. The Spanish parliament needs to ratify the proposal within the next month.

Industry sources in Spain told Lloyd’s List that after the council’s approval, port workers reinitiated the go-slows that hampered the sector in early February to mid-March. Productivity has decreased as much as 30% in the ports of Valencia, Las Palmas, Barcelona and Algeciras, they claim.

The last round of go-slows had an immediate impact on Spanish ports and their operators, with Maersk reporting that it lost €12m ($13.3m) and diverted 73 vessels to neighbouring countries’ ports. A PwC report published in February estimated that Spanish ports generated €24.5m per day and were responsible for 145,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The proposed labour reforms, negotiated with the European Union to align Spain’s law with that of the EU in the face of mounting multi-million-euro fines, seek to liberalise the stevedore profession by eliminating Sagep – the private enterprise pool company that employers must go through to hire stevedores – and limiting collective bargaining.

While the government’s first attempt to legislate the reform failed, with the parliament’s rejection in mid-March, Spanish media are reporting that the Catalan European Democratic Party is ready to support the reforms in parliament, thus giving the government the majority it needs.

Despite negotiating with employers and a government-appointed mediator since March to find an agreeable set of reforms, neither the unions nor employers were informed of the content of the new royal decree before it was presented to the council of ministers. The government published the royal decree on Saturday.

Source: Lloyd’s List