EU slashes Spain port labor fine

EU slashes Spain port labor fine

Spanish ports had to cope with countless closures as dock workers opposed an EU ruling on labor pools.

The European Court of Justice has fined Spain a modest 3 million euros ($3.4 million) for failing to meet a deadline to liberalize its dock labor system.

The EU court was expected to impose a penalty of around 24 million euros, based on daily fines it had ordered Madrid to pay for failing to comply with its ruling in December 2014 that the union-dominated system breached the EU’s freedom of establishment.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive agency, lodged a second complaint against Spain last year after it failed to meet a September 2015 deadline to de-monopolize the hiring of waterfront employees.

The minority center-right Popular Party government won parliamentary support to reform the system, at the second attempt, in mid-May, triggering a fresh round of strikes by the country’s 6,150 registered dockers.

The reforms will free ports, terminal operators, and stevedores to employ non-union labor and remove the obligation to join — and partially finance — local dock pools that have a monopoly over hiring.

The dockers’ unions called off their strike campaign at the end of June after striking a deal with employers over job security under a reformed system.

The employers’ association ANESCO has guaranteed the jobs of Spain’s registered dockers and unchanged working conditions during a three-year transition to the new system, and the unions have accepted a 10 percent wage cut and early retirement for its older members.

The unions had earlier struck separate deals with several terminal operators, including APM Terminals and Hutchison Ports, in the country’s three largest container ports, Algeciras, Valencia, and Barcelona.

Spanish dockers have an average pre-tax income 70,000 euros a year, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper, a professional services company, and some earn up to 100,000 euros.

Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.