A case of fake reforms?

The initial departure of leading stevedores from ANESCO, notably those in Algeciras (pictured) and Barcelona, led to others being compelled to follow suit The initial departure of leading stevedores from ANESCO, notably those in Algeciras (pictured) and Barcelona, led to others being compelled to follow suit

COMMENT: To the outside world it looks like Spain has complied with its obligation to reform its port system. But has it, or more to the point will it when the formal deliberations of employers and unions are complete, asks Mike Mundy.

The original date for the two sides to come up with workable arrangements that comply with the spirit of the Royal Decree passed in May of this year was September 26, 2017. The Royal Decree provided the legislative base to comply with European Union requirements to liberalise the Spanish port system and in particular deregulate stevedoring to allow the hiring of non-union port labour. No agreement between the two sides that can be set into what is known as the Fifth Framework Agreement was reached by the September 26 and hence a new deadline has been set of October 26.

Informed sources, however, indicate that the prospects for this being achieved look very slim. Draft documents have set out the initial ideas of both employers and unions and it is no secret that both sides see the respective positions set out in these documents as a long way apart.

The unions have proved the stronger party in negotiations to-date as was particularly evidenced by the employers not sticking together under the banner of ANESCO, the employers association, in earlier negotiations and forming local agreements with unions so as to avoid costly strikes. The initial departure of leading stevedores from ANESCO, notably those in Algeciras and Barcelona, led to others being compelled to follow suit and therefore a breakdown in industry-wide negotiations.

Now the ‘vibes’ coming out of the negotiating camp are that it is the unions’ intention not to give ground and basically to replicate, in the context of the Fifth Framework Agreement, the control they have lost under the Royal Decree. The lack of stability within ANESCO basically promotes the possibility of this and if it were to prove to be the case then, as one industry insider put it, “bye bye, industry reform”.

A big question mark also hangs over the detailed draft regulation the government has formatted. The government is not showing its hand in this respect – some say because it knows that it goes against the Royal Decree and Luxembourg decision. And others further suggest that if the unions do manage to ride rough shod over the employers then the government may not need to reveal its detailed thoughts on reform.

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