Last Thursday, Spanish dockers achieved a big step forward after the Spanish government’s unilateral Decree was rejected in the national parliament by political parties.
International Dockworkers Council (IDC) General Coordinator, Jordi Aragunde, thanks the IDC affiliates around the world for “their constant show of support for the workers of Spain and the actions they carried out which brought great pressure to bear.”
Dockworkers hope that a process of frank negotiation which starts from scratch will resolve this situation, one that takes into account international legality and- above all else- the maintenance of existing working conditions.
In line with the position previously put forward at the last meeting with members of the European Commission, IDC will return to the European Union (EU) Sectoral Social Dialogue process once the conflict in Spain has been resolved.
The international association of unions will strengthen its support for the resolution of problems in other countries where IDC is established, such as those in Latin America, Africa, Sweden, Portugal, and the United States.
IDC, 03/20/2017. Barcelona. The International Dockworkers Council (IDC) has called off mobilizations in support of Spanish dockworkers planned for March 23 that were previously scheduled to be held in ports around the world. The IDC took this decision after the Spanish parliament voted last Thursday to reject the national government’s Royal Decree that was promoted by the Ministry of Public Works, which was designed to obliterate jobs on the Spanish docks. This result is a big step forward for the dockworkers of Spain.
In the words of IDC General Coordinator, Jordi Aragunde, “this is a step forward, but also a great opportunity given to us by the opposition parliamentary groups. Dockworkers, together with the government and employers, can come to an agreement on the best conditions for the remodeling of the Spanish Port Model and for complying with the ruling of the European Court of Justice.”
Aragunde also thanked IDC affiliates around the world and “their constant show of support for the workers of Spain and the actions they carried out which brought great pressure to bear internationally, and in Spain. This pressure helped to convince public opinion that the unilateral Royal Decree was reckless, dishonest, and harmful to the interests of the working class- interests which we proudly represent.”
In this regard, IDC looks to the coming meetings with hope. Spanish workers expect a frank negotiation which starts from scratch and allows for the resolution of this situation, one which takes into account international legality and, above all else, the maintenance of existing working conditions.
The International Dockworkers Council also hopes to return to the EU’s Sectoral Social Dialogue process as soon as the issues faced by Spanish workers are resolved and the new regulation is in operation. "We informed European Commission representatives of this at the meeting held on Monday, March 13," says the General Coordinator. "But to reach this point, it is necessary to ensure that all the points that were not prohibited by either the European Commission or the ruling of the European Court of Justice are transferred to the new Spanish law," Aragunde said.
In this sense, union representatives will go to the meeting with these parties to demand the carrying over of their current contracts and the inclusion of a professional registry of dockworkers, in accordance with the international regulations included in International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 137. Spain has ratified this convention and, as pointed out by the heads of the European Commission in various meetings with workers’ representatives, Brussels does not oppose it.
In any case, "the rejection of the Spanish government’s proposal is only a small demonstration of the real power of dockers around the world." Aragunde concluded that, "once this conflict in Spain is solved, problems remain in other countries where IDC members are established, such as those in Latin America, Africa, Sweden, Portugal, and the United States - which we will offer our support to in coming weeks."
The IDC General Coordinator has been invited to the High Level Ministerial Stakeholders Road Safety and Maritime Conference to be held on 28 and 29 March in Malta, the country currently holding the EU’s rotating presidency position. Malta’s Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Joe Mizzi, has invited Jordi Aragunde to the meeting which will include the representatives of the Transport Ministers from all of the EU’s 27 member nations as well as with European Commission representatives led by the European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc. Aragunde will be given the opportunity to intervene in this forum of discussion and dialogue.
This meeting represents a great opportunity for workers to demonstrate their occupational professionalism as well as increase the pressure on the Spanish government executive as it negotiates the new decree conditions that sought to modify the port sector. In Malta, the Declaration of Valletta that deals with maritime safety, competitiveness, and environmental sustainability, is also set to be discussed and adopted.
The presence of all EU Transport Ministers at this meeting will enable the European Commission to clarify its position and the real role it intends to adopt in relation to the ports and maritime sector in coming years.
Thursday, March 9, 2017. The ETF, ITF and IDC have joined forces to support Spanish dockworkers whose jobs are at risk because of attempts to reform the port labour system.
The three organizations have been working together since the opening of an EU infringement procedure on freedom of establishment in ports against Spain back in 2013. Two weeks ago, the Spanish Government unilaterally presented a Royal Decree on the reform, disregarding the result of previous negotiations between social partners. Consequently the three organizations have engaged in a series of actions to support the struggle of the Spanish dockers. Among these, an action day was planned for the 10 March 2017, to coincide with the strike called by the Spanish unions on the same day.
“Following discussions with our respective members, our three organizations have decided to temporarily suspend the announced day of action. The Spanish unions are making another attempt to see if they can succeed with negotiations and political influence, and we fully respect this decision. Our actions are meant to support them and we are obviously ready to rework our solidarity plans to meet the needs of their revised strategy.” said ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen.
The three organizations and their members in Europe and around the world are maintaining all their political actions to support our Spanish Comrades.
Jordi Aragunde, IDC General Coordinator added “We are certainly not dropping our guard: we are all very busy supporting members in Spain. Our aim is to support them gaining the right to a fair reform of port labour. They are not opposing the reform, but some of the terms set by the government are not acceptable: we are convinced port labour can be reformed without the need for huge job losses and replacing stable employment with precarious jobs.”
Paddy Crumlin, ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair concluded “The global dockers’ and transport workers’ family will continue to demonstrate tremendous support to the Spanish dockers. This is an emblematic struggle against dogmatic liberalization of labour, and it affects the labour movement as a whole. We are following the developments in Spain very closely and are ready to support the struggle through any lawful means.”
More on the Organizations
The International Dockworkers Council
The International Dockworkers Council (IDC) is a global trade union confederation formally founded in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2000. It currently brings together more than 85,000 dockworkers on five continents, and works to defend workers and their jobs through training and continuous improvement of their working conditions. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, the IDC is organized into six areas (Europe, Africa, Western North America and Pacific Coast, East Coast of North America, Oceania and Latin America), each with a coordinator appointed by assembly.
The International Transport Workers' Federation
The International Transport Workers 'Federation (ITF) is an international federation of transport workers' unions. Any independent trade union with members in the transport industry can be a member of the ITF. About 700 unions representing over 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries are members of the ITF. It is one of several federations that make up the International Trade Union Confederation (CSI). ITF headquarters is in London and has offices in Amman, Brussels, Nairobi, New Delhi, Ouagadougou, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.
The European Transport Workers' Federation
The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) is a Pan-European trade union organization which embraces transport trade unions of the European Union, the European Economic Area and the countries of Eastern Europe. The ETF represents more than 3.5 million transport workers from over 230 trade unions and 41 European countries in the following sectors: railway, road transport and logistics, shipping, inland waterways, civil aviation, ports and docks, tourism and fishing.
IDC, 2/13/2017. Barcelona. In recent days, representatives of tens of thousands of dockworkers from the five continents have sent letters to the Spanish union Coordinadora, to the Spanish Minister of Public Works Íñigo de la Serna, and to several Spanish Embassies and Consulates. These letters were sent with the hope of encouraging a solution to end the conflict generated by Spain ten days ago, when they annouced the Spanish Executive intends to approve a unilateral legislative decree that undermines years of growth in Spanish ports.
From Oceania to America or Asia, through the main countries of Europe and Africa, the International Dockworkers Council and the main Spanish union, Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores del Mar (CETM), have received much support. In the words of the IDC's General Coordinator, Jordi Aragunde, "the Spanish Government must overturn an agreement which 90% of the companies have already signed with the workers, and then proceed to make their own agreement which complies with the European Commission´s judgement in the Court of Luxembourg- which has required the Kingdom of Spain modify the existing stowage model."
According to the trade union leader "at the meeting we had last December with Commissioner Violeta Bulc, we asked to go to Brussels with an agreement between the parties to approve, as was done with the Belgian stowage model." In this sense, according to Aragunde, "the European Commission neither drafts the jurisprudence of each Member State nor legislates. This is done by each country in a particular way; Spain, in this case. For dockworkers, it is important that the agreement with the Spanish Government complies with Convention 137 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), ratified by Spain. This convention ensures the permanent and regular employment of dockworkers, maintains registers for all categories of dockworkers, and states that registered dockworkers should have priority for dock work," added Aragunde. In most countries with maritime traffic, the ILO Convention is respected, especially when it is ratified by a Member State.
For now, IDC has coordinated an international campaign to support Spanish colleagues. They await next Tuesday´s ruling by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works, who has since decided to pursue honest negotiation with workers and review proposals from both parties, given that at last Friday's meeting no proposal was presented. In case workers´ demands are not met, it should be remembered that the unions called a strike notice on the odd hours of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week.
In addition, IDC has convened an emergency meeting of its Zone Coordinators (Europe, Africa, West Coast of North America and Pacific, East Coast of North America, Oceania, and Latin America) on 21 February in Algeciras, Spain to analyze the situation and give a joint and forceful response to the demands made from Spain.
The General Coordinator states "the conflict should be met with the opportunity of establishing channels of dialogue in good faith and, if necessary, with the presence of European Commission officials. In this way, we can prevent the Spanish economy from suffering consequences." In this sense, the current unilateral decision on the table"risks the security of the entire port sector and endangers import and export of Spanish goods in ports."
In the words of Jordi Aragunde, "We have not ruled out proposing actions to influence the movement of Spanish commodities, in case no agreement is reached." This would not be the first time that the international workers´union has taken measures to paralyze or delay the unloading of consumer goods from other countries where the improvement of working conditions is being negotiated, as a measure of pressure for the respective Governments to agree to negotiate with the trade union.
IDC, 02/06/2017. Barcelona. "The Spanish Government threatens the growth of the Spanish economy and seeks to make the dockworkers´profession disappear from the countrys´ports." These strong words belong to the General Coordinator of the International Dockworker Council (IDC), Jordi Aragunde of Spain, after learning last Thursday the conservative government heading Spain intends to launch a unilateral legislative decree without dialogue with workers. For the leader of the international organizaton of trade unions, "the struggle of Spanish dockers is the struggle of all dockers around the world."
"Spanish ports are growing. The workers' wages are also growing... and the Ministry of Public Works intends to act on a decree that prevents the country's economic recovery," says Aragunde. "With a unilateral measure like the one they intend to carry out, they will suceed in weighing down positive numbers and the recovery of the foreign trade in Spain as a whole."
In addition, "taking unilateral measures is an incitement for workers" who in Spain have already planned measures to dissuade the Government from this idea under the motto: "Action-Reaction." In the international context, Jordi Aragunde plans to contact leaders of major trade unions around the world to coordinate support for Spanish dockworkers, which will undoubtedly have a large impact, since "it is an offense against thousands of families, dismissals of hundreds of workers, selling short the work that has been carried out to date and endangering the security of ports."
Thus, "IDC will provide unconditional support to Spanish workers and organize around the world," said IDC General Coordinator. "We are more than 100,000 dockworkers, united in ports across the five continents, and we have already demonstrated that the union is a force to be reckoned with."
IDC remains open to dialogue with both the Spanish Government and the community, and hopes to soften the consequences of this application of the Judgment (passed by the European Union Court of Justice (Room 6) on December 2014) that may harm the interests of workers. At this point, Commissioner Bulc pointed out to Jordi Aragunde and Anthony Tetard- accompanying the Spanish trade union leader and former IDC General Coordinator Antolín Goya- she is in favor of a sincere negotiation.
In addition, according to the mandate of the most recent IDC General Assembly held in Miami last year, the International Dockworkers Council is portrayed in its role as mediator in national conflicts, and has acted as such on numerous occassions already, including in Portugal and currently in Sweden. In this sense and before the European Commission itself, IDC "will propose to open channels of dialogue as long as the decree is not published with consensus, as promised by the former Minister of Public Works and current president of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, Ana Pastor," says IDC General Coordinator.
It should be noted that the principle of agreement reached a few days ago between the workers´ representatives- headed by the union Coordinadora – and the employers', there is a scrupulous fulfillment of the Judgment of the Court of Luxembourg and an evolution of the current model of work on the docks in Spain.
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