Meaningful reform still absent

Industry Database

COMMENT: In Spain's ports, the wait goes on. The Spanish government is yet to unveil the detailed regulations that are intended to reflect the terms negotiated between port employers and dockworkers regarding the reform of Spain’s port labour arrangements, necessary to comply with EU legislation intended to make Europe’s ports more competitive.

The absence of this detail is posing difficulties in closing a new National Framework Agreement, which was formulated taking account of the reform initiative and negotiated in the early part of 2017 between employers and unions. Some informed observers suggest that this delay may at least in part be attributed to the reality that the final terms negotiated weigh heavily in favour of the unions and that the Spanish Government is having difficulty reconciling what was agreed with complying with the spirit of the relevant EU legislation.

The following are some of the key challenges that the new regulations must address:

Port Employment Centres (CPE) - These are the entities which are intended to replace the stowage societies which, traditionally, port employers have been compelled to source labour from in a restricted fashion. The new CPEs are in effect a vehicle designed to facilitate the transition from the stowage societies to a more open, competitive and unrestricted means of sourcing port labour. The new regulations have to define what a CPE is, its scope and to clarify if other temporary employment agencies can operate under a different name.

Retirement Aid - This is a subject close to the heart of the unions. Key issues here are the scope of the aid offered for early worker retirement/retrenchment, its beneficiaries, the amount, application procedure and the precise date when the regulation comes into effect.

Subrogation – continuity of employment - This is clearly an area of challenge for Government. The unions’ desire to keep 100% of existing port personnel in service, but the Government has already stated that this issue cannot be approved by law and has instead pointed to the individual Collective Bargaining Arrangements (CBAs) in ports as a means of achieving continuity of employment. Unions do not view this are entirely satisfactory and hence there is a keenness to see if the regulations put in place go further than the CBA route.

Flexibility and Efficiency - How will the Government frame regulations covering the measures agreed in the employer-union mediation that cover promoting port efficiency and flexibility of operations as well as salary reductions? Will they deliver on flexibility and efficiency goals, both key points for employers?

There are other, equally important issues that are just as thorny to tackle; the challenge for Government is quite formidable.

The reform process has reached a decisive stage. On the one hand, the delay in delivering the regulations is impeding the roll out of the reform process and on the other there are significant questions hanging over whether the regulations can reconcile meeting the spirit of the EU legislation when accommodating the agreements flowing out of the mediation, and whether, overall, the new regulations will ultimately deliver meaningful reform.


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