Spanish ports face shutdowns for several days later in the month as longshoremen plan to walk out to protest government plans to reform the country’s port labor system.
The strikes, which are expected to take place between Feb. 20 and Feb. 24, will impact the country’s top container ports of Valencia and Barcelona, which have been hit by industrial action over the past year.
The Madrid government has been under pressure to reform the dock labor system since December 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled that its restrictive practices contravene EU legislation on the freedom of establishment.
Madrid’s failure to respond — partly due to political turmoil over the past two years — prompted the court to impose a 15.6-million-euro ($16.7 million) fine in July 2016, and a daily fine of 134,000 euros until it complies with the Luxembourg-based court’s ruling.
The government reportedly will soon introduce a new law that will end the restrictive practices in the dock labor scheme.
Current legislation requires dockers to be members of a pool, SAGEP, in each port, which recruits and trains workers, and puts them at the disposal of terminal operators and other cargo operators. The law also mandates all companies providing cargo handling services to join and financially support SAGEPs.
Port operators can only hire “outside” workers if a SAGEP cannot provide sufficient labour or they are not suitable for the job.
The dockworker union has claimed the planned legislation will lead to between 6,000 and 8,000 job losses on the Spanish waterfront.
“The Spanish government threatens the growth of the Spanish economy and seeks to make the dockworkers’ profession disappear from the country’s ports,” according to Jordi Aragunde, the general coordinator of the Barcelona-based International Dockworkers Council.
The port of Valencia Port Authority has said issues related to dock labor, and other port services trimmed the port’s annual container traffic by 2 percent, or some 80,000 containers, in 2016.
Valencia, however, handled a record 4.72 million twenty-foot-equivalent units last year, an increase of 2.3 percent on 2015.
Barcelona’s container traffic jumped 14.5 percent in 2016 to 2.2 million TEUs.