WASHINGTON: Spanish ports are set for eight days of strike action in the coming weeks after parliament’s lower house passed a reform to liberalise port labour practices, which currently contravene EU legislation. The vote narrowly passed with 174 MPs in favour compared to 165 against and eight abstentions as the nationalist Catalan party PDeCAT abstained. An earlier version of the reforms was voted down in March before the new version relaxed its stance on workers contracted to load and unload vehicles due for import and export. Unions are to strike from May 24 until June 9, during odd hours on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, although it is claimed that they have already begun to slow down operations.
Terje Samuelsen, chair of the dockers’ section of the ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation), said: “This decision risks bringing into place a plan to aggressively and destructively liberalise port labour. It doesn’t even have the excuse of being in line with EU rules – it goes recklessly beyond them. Unions are being forced into strike action.” Ahead of previously scheduled strikes in March, Maersk Line created a contingency plan which features diversions of cargo away from its transhipment hub in Algeciras. Surcharges for port congestion were also implemented by various carriers. Current port labour practises in Spain, which involve employing workers provided by a pool company, contravene European Union (EU) regulations resulting in the government racking up €21m (US$23m) in fines since 2014.