Spain’s dockworkers unions called off the first two days of the 9-days strike scheduled for March, 6 and 8 and expect to continue negotiations with the government on the dock labour system reform. However, the action on March, 10 as well as those every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the following two weeks are still scheduled.
As we wrote earlier, on February, 24 the Spanish government unveiled a new law, thus initiating the dock labour system reform, for which EU has been pressing the country since late 2014. The Congress, the lower house of Spain’s Parliament, was due to vote on the measure this Thursday, however this was postponed until Thursday next week, March, 16, in order to provide more time for opposing parliamentary groups to submit their opinions, as some political parties have already voiced their disapproval of the new law.
The decision of the unions to suspend the commencement of the strike came as a result of this parliamentary opposition, which was seen as “opening a new opportunity for dialogue and negotiations”, according to Antolín Goya, leader of the main Spanish union, Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar (CETM).
The Spanish unions’ move was supported by the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), which announced a series of measures arranged through its affiliates, the first of which was an international day of strike action in solidarity with Spanish dockworkers. This will be held on March 10, when European ports will stop work for three hours and ports in the rest of the world stop work for one hour. In addition, the ports in neighboring countries will not be used for the unloading of Spanish cargo while Spanish dockers are on strike. This involves Marseille-Fos (France), Lisbon (Portugal) and Tangier (Morocco). Portuguese unions will also call on dockers of Lisbon to ensure that no Spanish cargo is unloaded in the southern Portuguese port of Sines.
“Furthermore, if this conflict is not resolved by the end of March, the IDC will investigate measures that will directly target Spanish foreign trade, both imports and exports,” the IDC said in its announcement published last week.
The IDC has also demanded that the European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc take “an official and unequivocal position on the Spanish government’s Decree Law”.
However, Spanish sources comment that last week Violeta Bulc sent a letter to Spain’s Minister of Public Works and Transport, Iñigo de la Serna, confirming that the proposed reform complied with the requirements of the European Court of Justice and calling for its soonest ratification by the Congress. Furthermore, at yesterday’s joint session of the European Commission and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in the Congress, Violeta Bulc once again confirmed: “The European Commission completely supports the new law. This is what we have expected for two years, since the Court of Justice’s judgement against Spain. Now, we believe that the reform will be approved prior to March, 24. If not, the European Commission will have to take subsequent measures”.