In recent days, representatives of tens of thousands of dockworkers from the five continents have sent letters to the Spanish union Coordinadora, to the Spanish Minister of Public Works Íñigo de la Serna, and to several Spanish Embassies and Consulates. These letters were sent with the hope of encouraging a solution to end the conflict generated by Spain ten days ago, when they annouced the Spanish Executive intends to approve a unilateral legislative decree that undermines years of growth in Spanish ports.
From Oceania to America or Asia, through the main countries of Europe and Africa, the International Dockworkers Council and the main Spanish union, Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar (CETM), have received much support. In the words of the IDC’s General Coordinator, Jordi Aragunde, “the Spanish Government must overturn an agreement which 90% of the companies have already signed with the workers, and then proceed to make their own agreement which complies with the European Commission´s judgement in the Court of Luxembourg- which has required the Kingdom of Spain modify the existing stowage model.”
According to the trade union leader “at the meeting we had last December with Commissioner Violeta Bulc, we asked to go to Brussels with an agreement between the parties to approve, as was done with the Belgian stowage model.” In this sense, according to Aragunde, “the European Commission neither drafts the jurisprudence of each Member State nor legislates. This is done by each country in a particular way; Spain, in this case. For dockworkers, it is important that the agreement with the Spanish Government complies with Convention 137 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), ratified by Spain.
This convention ensures the permanent and regular employment of dockworkers, maintains registers for all categories of dockworkers, and states that registered dockworkers should have priority for dock work,” added Aragunde. In most countries with maritime traffic, the ILO Convention is respected, especially when it is ratified by a Member State.
For now, IDC has coordinated an international campaign to support Spanish colleagues. They await next Tuesday´s ruling by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works, who has since decided to pursue honest negotiation with workers and review proposals from both parties, given that at last Friday’s meeting no proposal was presented. In case workers´ demands are not met, it should be remembered that the unions called a strike notice on the odd hours of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week.
In addition, IDC has convened an emergency meeting of its Zone Coordinators (Europe, Africa, West Coast of North America and Pacific, East Coast of North America, Oceania, and Latin America) on 21 February in Algeciras, Spain to analyze the situation and give a joint and forceful response to the demands made from Spain.
The General Coordinator states “the conflict should be met with the opportunity of establishing channels of dialogue in good faith and, if necessary, with the presence of European Commission officials. In this way, we can prevent the Spanish economy from suffering consequences.” In this sense, the current unilateral decision on the table”risks the security of the entire port sector and endangers import and export of Spanish goods in ports.”
In the words of Jordi Aragunde, “We have not ruled out proposing actions to influence the movement of Spanish commodities, in case no agreement is reached.” This would not be the first time that the international workers´union has taken measures to paralyze or delay the unloading of consumer goods from other countries where the improvement of working conditions is being negotiated, as a measure of pressure for the respective Governments to agree to negotiate with the trade union.