5 July 2013 – The ETF and ITF have begun a consultation process with affiliated unions in Spain, to see how they can support them following news that changes could be made to the way dockworkers are recruited in Spanish ports.
The European Commission (EC) is referring Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the existing rules on hiring port labour in locations including Barcelona, Algeciras, Valencia and Bilbao.
Currently, cargo handling companies hire port workers through private companies owned by employers in each port, rather than hiring them freely. The EC argues that cargo handling providers from other EU member states wishing to establish themselves in Spanish ports might be discouraged because of the current recruitment situation and that this hinders the exercise of the freedom of establishment.
Terje Samuelsen, chair of the ETF dockers’ section, said: “We can now see that the European Commission’s DG MOVE (directorate general for mobility and transport) is determined to continue the struggle to introduce port package three, this time not only through legislation but through the opening of court cases and the imposition of liberalisation of port labour as a condition to the allocation of rescue funds. They are now trying to justify themselves by using the court to actually say that social dumping is okay in ports in the EU!”
He continued: “Dockers in Europe, with the support of rest of the world’s dockers, will take up this fight and we are confident that we will win on this important issue. We will support our comrades in Spain in every possible way.”
The ETF and ITF renew their call to the Spanish government to effectively defend the system currently in place in Spanish ports before the CJEU. The current law is the result of extensive consultation of social partners, and both the employers and the unions keep being in favour of the system in place.
In addition to the direct impact a change in the rules on Spanish port recruitment would have on Spanish dockers, there are also implications for dockers across the European Union. A decision in favour of the EC argument could set a precedent for concerns over private business and competition in the EU outweighing working issues like job security.