Spain's Dockers Reach Agreement to End Strikes

Striking dockers in Bilbao, June 2017 (Jose Luis Garcia Consuegra / facebook)

By The Maritime Executive 2017-06-29 18:40:40

Spanish stevedores' unions have reached an agreement with port operators that will end weeks of disruptive strikes, which have cost Spain's ports at least $170 million in delays and diverted shipments. 

On Thursday, the members of ports association Anesco gave the unions a guarantee of continued employment, despite a new government decree that legalizes the introduction of non-unionized labor. Employers at Algeciras, Barcelona, Cadiz, Bilbao and other large ports had already reached individual agreements with the unions, leaving Anesco to negotiate on behalf of smaller facilities. The unions suspended strikes at the individual ports with labor agreements, raising pressure on Anesco and the remaining terminal operators.

Under the terms of the deal negotiated Thursday, these port employers agreed to guarantee "the continuity of the employment of 100 percent" of unionized stevedores. In return, the unions agreed to enter negotiations on a final collective bargaining agreement and to end the strikes. This means that five more days of economically damaging labor actions – June 30, July 3-5 and July 6-8 – have been called off. Antonin Goya, the leader of union CETM, told the press that it was unfortunate that Spain's ports had had to go through so many weeks "of tension, of nerves, of loss of traffic, of economic losses" in order to arrive at the agreement. 

Even with strikes ended and a final labor contract close at hand, the question of Spain's stevedoring sector is not yet fully closed. The European Court of Justice ruled in late 2014 that Spain had to liberalize port hiring in order to comply with EU rules on competition and barriers to entry. Spain owes fines totaling $27 million for the two and a half year period when it did not comply with that ruling, and next month the court will decide whether the recent port reforms are enough to bring the nation into compliance and avoid new, higher daily penalties.