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Strikes off after Spanish opposition votes against reforms
Opponents of the decree celebrated in Congress

Strikes off after Spanish opposition votes against reforms

Spanish dockers unions have called off planned strike action after Spanish opposition parties voted down a government decree, meant to liberalise the hiring of port labour.

The decree, which would have allowed companies to freely hire workers to load and unload cargo, is the first such legislation since 1979 to have been voted down by the opposition in Spain.

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 €23m (US$25m) in fines since 2014.

The European Commission, which suspended the fines as the government showed progress on the reforms, has suggested they may be imposed again.

Inigo de la Serna, public works minister, stated: “The loss is not just for us, but all Spaniards who will have to pay the fine.”

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) originally fined the Spanish government €15.6m (US$13.3m) last year for failing to implement changes plus an added €134,000 (US$114,000) daily fine.

Nine days of strike action had been due to take place in March, although despite the reversal of the decree, ports have been hit by congestion and shipping lines have rerouted vessels to avoid Spanish terminals.

French carrier CMA CGM has suspended an emergency port congestion surcharge, which it had begun enforcing in Spanish ports due to the volatile situation.

Union leaders have praised the result although Jacqueline Smith, maritime coordinator at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), said: “It’s clear that this is not the end of the attacks to conditions, so while the ITF congratulates the Spanish Dockworkers on their victory and thanks the hundreds of affiliates around the world who provided strong solidarity, we know we must prepare for the next round if attacks in Spain in the coming months.”

Spain’s governing party, the People’s Party does not have a parliamentary majority, meaning opposition parties have to support proposals for decrees to become law.

From a total of 348 votes, there were 174 votes against the decree, 141 in favour and 33 abstentions.

Opposition parties, including the centre-left Socialists and anti-austerity Podemos, voted against the decree.