Spain’s Ministry of Development has sent the government proposed legislation covering the reform of stevedoring at the country’s ports.

The plan is to ensure that a ruling passed by the EU’s Court of Justice in 2014 is implemented and to avoid threatened financial penalties that were agreed by the European Commission in July.

The new proposal will result in the full deregulation of the sector, thereby overturning an earlier document agreed between employers, the National Association of Stevedoring and Ship Consignment Companies (Anesco) and the port unions.

The new law will permit free access to the profession, while at the same time ending the role of the various port stevedoring companies (Sageps). Registered stevedores will no longer retain exclusive contracts for handling on the quay.

All parties had until February 17 to accept the new rules.

In protest, port unions called three days of strikes, complaining that the new rules will result in fewer jobs for their members. The first was planned for February 20 with subsequent strikes planned for February 22 and 24. Dock workers rallied at the Port of Algeciras yesterday as International Longshoremen’s Association executive vice president Dennis Daggett pledged the ILA’s full support for the Spanish longshore workers in their battle against the Spanish Government.

According to the Spanish Ports Investment Platform (PIPE), the government proposals will benefit ports, helping to boost competitiveness and boost exports by nearly €700m annually and overall traffic by 5%.