Following the debate in Algeciras:
Report updated a couple of days ago. It isn't great but it's in English.
I've been looking for English language coverage of today's debate and vote and haven't found anything despite its importance. I'm wondering if this is partly because it doesn't fit easily into a pre-existing media narrative. It will be interesting to see what reports come out later.
The government has lost the vote:
Yes 142, No 175, Abstentions 33
Report from El País:
Apparently this is the first time a decree has been voted down by Congress since 1979. The government got the support of the Basque nationalist PNV but the liberal right Ciudadanos abstained after saying last night that they would vote with the government.
Other Spanish media reports:
Photos: press conference outside Congress
Reactions from the dockworkers inside:
The strikes scheduled for tomorrow and for alternate days next week have been called off and negotiations will continue.
Reaction on twitter:
Podéis seguir criticando a los estibadores, o podéis tomar ejemplo.
Eso va a diferenciar a los gilipollas del resto de personas
Roughly: 'You can carry on criticising the dockworkers, or you can take them as an example. That's going to be a way to tell the difference between the dickheads and the rest of the people.'
Spanish opposition parties voted down a government decree aimed at reforming restrictive labour practices at the country's ports, marking a setback for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he tries to find allies in a fractured parliament.
It is the first time a so-called royal decree has been rejected in parliament since the late 1970s...
I've posted a short news report on today's vote:
Blog post on today's vote:
Todos los estibadores, desde el primer hasta el último, representados en esa tribuna, y muy bien representados, todos hemos metido el gol que nos daba el triunfo del día, tumbar un Real Decreto Ley, algo insólito desde el año 1979, en plena transición. De La Serna fue valiente, mucho, y fracasó, el pueblo habló, y ganó, como antaño. Ahí estaba el gol en la prorroga. Historia.
Ahora bien, por desgracia no era gol que te da un mundial, era el gol que te hace pasar de ronda, a otro partido, con otros rivales, agresivos, de corbata, dónde tu eres el número, y no, amigo no, no eres rentable, para esa batalla y para cambiar el modelo para cumplir la sentencia que demanda Bruselas, que se hará por cierto, habrá que bailar con las mas feas, o feos me da igual.
Barcelona Sants railway station today:
Article from a Spanish leftist site that makes some good points before losing me towards the end with the writer's political project.
La sola amenaza de huelga ha bastado para que el Real Decreto Ley aprobado por el gobierno de Rajoy para liberalizar la contratación en la estiba quedara derogado por las Cortes. El “no” ha sido para el gobierno del PP, pero también por elevación para el Tribunal de Justicia de la UE y su amenaza de sanción.
Uno de los sectores más concentrados, sindicalizados y coordinados del movimiento obrero han enseñado “músculo” y en esta ocasión ha bastado para evitar que varios partidos del Régimen votaran con la “responsabilidad de Estado” que les ha caracterizado en otros momentos. El “músculo” era económico -las pérdidas de cada jornada de huelga se han llegado a calcular en más de 50 millones de euros-, pero sobre todo político. El fantasma de un gran conflicto obrero en el centro de la escena, que podría regenerar el efecto “minero” de 2012, y dirigido contra todos los que hubieran votado “sí”, es un escenario que teme un PSOE con la peor crisis de su historia reciente.
It starts off by pointing out that just the threat of a strike was enough for the government decree to be voted down. This simply wouldn't have happened without the muscle of the dockworkers and the threat of a major conflict.
Watching the vote in Algeciras:
Analysing an editorial on the vote in El País:
From today's Journal of Commerce:
Spanish dockworkers call off remaining strikes
Bruce Barnard, Special Correspondent | Mar 16, 2017
The Spanish dockworkers’ union on Thursday canceled the remaining four days of a nine-day strike campaign after the government failed to win parliamentary support for reforms of the country’s dock labor system.
The strikes, which would have involved dockworkers stopping work every other hour, were due to take place on March 17, 20, 22, and 24.
The CMT union had earlier canceled five days of strikes while it held negotiations with the terminal operators and stevedores’ organization Anesco.
The minority Popular Party government’s planned reform was in response to a European Court ruling in December 2014 that the country’s dock labor system, which is run by local union controlled port pools, breaches EU rules on the freedom of establishment.
Spain was fined 15.6 million euros ($16.7 million) last July for failing to comply with the court’s ruling and faces a daily penalty of 134,000 euros until it carries out the reforms.
The draft reform would dismantle the union’s monopoly over the hiring of dockworkers across the Spanish waterfront and free port employers to hire non-union labor and remove the obligation to be paying members of the local dock pools.
The dockworkers’ union said it is prepared to start “serious and rigorous” negotiations with all parties, including employers and the government, to reach a consensus on responding to the Luxembourg court’s ruling.
The government has said it must comply with the court’s ruling and proposed a three-year transition for the reformed labor system to come into effect in a bid to win parliamentary support and meet some of the concerns of the union, which claims the reform will result in up to 7,000 job losses.
The government has not said how it will respond to the failure to obtain parliamentary approval for its planned reform.
More video clips from Barcelona yesterday:
Edit: also this clip. I'm sure where it's from:
Photos from Algeciras with the new t-shirt:
Statement from the CNT Amarradores del Puerto de Barcelona union branch in support of the Coordinadora in its conflict with the government (in Spanish):
Some responses from Coordinadora members:
Article in support of the dockworkers by a former port worker (in Spanish):
Blog post on the media campaign against the dockworkers (in Spanish):
A brief summary in English of the legal and other issues in the dispute:
Poster for a rally in Sydney to support Spanish dockworkers. I don't actually know if this is still going ahead or whether it has been called off along with this week's strikes.
This report confirms that the IDC have called off the international actions planned for March 23:
A Guerra dos Portos | The War of Ports - video produced in 2014 by Portuguese dockworkers - interviews with dockworkers from various European countries on the attacks they are facing from employers, states and the EU. Watching this helps put the dispute in Spain in perspective, with a dockworker from Valencia predicting that what was happening in Portugal and other European countries would also happen in Spain. Subtitles in English and Portuguese.
Report on the 2013-2014 dispute in Lisbon:
December 19, 2014 / Katy Fox-Hodess
In a time of global economic crisis, many unions feel they have no choice but to focus on just minimizing concessions.
But dockworkers in Lisbon, Portugal, who refused to follow suit have garnered widespread support—setting an example of how organized workers can use solidarity to resist austerity. With a crucial assist from dockworkers in Spain and elsewhere, they won reinstatement of their fired, non-union co-workers.
Portugal has been among the European countries hit hardest by the crisis. Unemployment has reached Depression-era levels, climbing past 40 percent for younger workers.
Making matters worse, in exchange for bailouts to national governments, the “Troika” of the European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund has demanded privatization, deregulation, weakened labor standards, and massive cuts to social programs.
In the name of stimulating the economy and cutting costs, longtime social rights and benefits have been severely eroded. For example, the number of hours in the workweek has increased. So has the retirement age. And the number of national holidays recognized annually has been reduced by four.
Average wages in Portugal, which already had the lowest minimum wage in Western Europe, have fallen dramatically. Legislation passed during the crisis has undermined unions’ ability to negotiate contracts. The numbers of collective bargaining agreements and of union members have declined significantly.
Assault by the Banks
The Portuguese government’s May 2011 memorandum of understanding with the Troika called for an array of legislative measures targeting working people.
Most relevant for the dockworkers was a provision to narrow the definition of dock labor (shrinking the group of workers who get extra protections beyond those in the general labor law) and to impose other anti-labor measures benefiting port employers. The target date for implementation was January 2012.
After legislation was introduced to carry out these changes, nearly all Portugal’s ports struck in protest, delaying the law’s passage well past the target date.
The International Dockworkers Council, one of two international organizations of European dockworkers (the other is the European Transport Workers Federation, ETF), organized a November 2012 protest that brought hundreds of workers to Lisbon for the largest pan-European dockworker protest in several years. It sent a strong message of unity to the employer, the government, and the Troika.
But the law eventually got through at the end of 2012, and went into effect in February 2013. The dockworkers began negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, which now had to be in compliance with the new anti-union law.
At the beginning of 2013, 18 casual dockworkers from the Lisbon union pool were dismissed.
This followed the new law’s revised definition of which jobs were part of the union labor pool—though it violated the contract still in place at the time. In July, another 29 additional casual dockworkers were dismissed. The union believed the employers had dismissed the 47 workers as part of a long-term strategy to create labor scarcity, in order to justify the creation of a second non-union labor pool at the port.
The employers tried to bring in scabs, so the union decided to shift its own strategy. In Lisbon the dockworkers moved toward “protection strikes”—meaning they only stopped work when scabs were brought in, and the maximum they stopped per day was four hours.
Protection strikes were a legal means for the dockworkers to prevent scabs from working the ships. For a time the strike threats dissuaded the employers from following through, but at the end of year, they succeeded in bringing in scab labor.
Despite the fact that the casuals are not members of the union, reinstating the 47 casual dockworkers employed through the union labor pool became the Lisbon dockworkers’ union’s rallying cry. The union also demanded:
that the new non-union labor pool not be permitted to grow beyond the 21 workers already employed
that those workers have the option of being integrated into the union pool after a new collective bargaining agreement was negotiated
that the employers drop a lawsuit they had filed against the union for damages during the strikes
and that the government agree to help mediate, and extend the contract negotiations until September 2014.
All year, the union dockworkers financially supported the dismissed casual workers so that they could continue to fight for their jobs and not have to find other work. The campaign to reinstate the fired workers became an important factor in garnering public support for the union.
Working with the Unemployed
Meanwhile, outside official union channels, a group of rank-and-file members of the Lisbon union had formed an activist organization, Estivadores Solidariedade (Dockworker Solidarity). These were members who felt their leaders weren’t doing enough to prevent the law from being implemented.
In particular, they wanted to reach out to the broader community, to counteract the employer/media message that privileged workers were disrupting the ports for their own narrow interests. They began working with others who were inspired by their fight, including social movement organizations of unemployed workers, rank-and-file railway workers, nurses, and call center workers.
The group set up a Facebook page and retained a left-wing activist as its communications specialist—both helpful in combating the media disinformation campaign against them. The Facebook page also became a way to make direct contact with rank-and-file dockworkers in other countries. These rank-and-filers sent messages of support, made plans to participate in the November protest in Lisbon, and built solidarity efforts in their local ports.
Some of the Estivadores Solidariedade activists ran for union office in 2013, on a platform of social justice unionism, and won.
The outside support bolstered the dockworkers’ resolve as they faced the very difficult situation inside the port. Contract negotiations dragged on; progress was very slow.
Spanish Workers Refuse Scab Cargo
As the law’s February 2014 deadline approached, the dockworkers resumed their strikes. International allies stepped up support too. Dockworker unions affiliated with both federations participated in a February 4 European Day of Action, holding stop-work meetings at the ports and sending delegations to Portuguese embassies and consulates.
The most significant international action was taken at the Port of Algeciras by La Coordinadora, the Spanish dockworkers union. Algeciras is a major transshipment port at the Strait of Gibraltar. It was February when the first ship loaded entirely by scabs in Lisbon—the Samaria, operated by a Maersk subcontractor—reached Algeciras, its first port of call.
While the ship was being loaded, the Lisbon dockworkers had recorded a video to document the fact that the poorly prepared scabs had taken seven days to load the ship—compared with the one day it would typically take the union workers.
The badly loaded ship posed a safety hazard to dockworkers who would handle the cargo at subsequent ports. Cargo that has not been properly secured creates the risk of serious injury or even fatality.
La Coordinadora stopped the ship at Algeciras and issued the captain what the Portuguese dockworkers called a “yellow card.” Citing safety concerns, they warned that they would refuse to unload any ships loaded by scabs in Lisbon.
The ship’s captain communicated this message to Maersk, one of the largest shipping line operators in the world. Maersk sent a letter to the Portuguese stevedoring companies, informing them it didn’t want any of its ships loaded by the Lisbon scabs.
A major breakthrough was reached shortly thereafter.
Momentum across Europe
In a meeting mediated by the Portuguese Ministry of Transport and attended by an IDC representative, the employers agreed that the fired dockworkers would be reinstated, the second pool would not be permitted to grow beyond the 21 already employed, and those workers would have the option of being integrated into the union pool after a new collective bargaining agreement was negotiated. The employers’ lawsuit against the union for damages during the strikes was dropped.
The government agreed to help mediate the contract negotiations. Those negotiations were extended until September and then again until the end of the year. They are making slow but steady process towards a contract.
A joint IDC-ETF meeting in March, which had been planned to coordinate solidarity for Lisbon, turned into a celebration and a discussion of other issues facing European dockworkers. There was a strong sense that the Lisbon victory had provided greater momentum to address the needs of other Portuguese dockworkers (particularly in Aveiro), the long-standing dispute at the Port of Piraeus in Greece, and a dispute in Norway.
Katy Fox-Hodess is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She thanks Antonio Mariano and Sergio Sousa of the Sindicato dos Estivadores in Lisbon for their help with this article.
Interview with Jordi Aragunde from the Coordinadora and IDC about dockworkers' struggles in Spain and internationally. This is from 2014 but it's still relevant.
Protest organised by Lisbon dockworkers in June 2016.
The Lisbon dockworkers union called a protest against precarious labor and unemployment this 17/06/2016 Many different collectives joined the march, from student groups, to other unions, parties, LGBT groups, the docker's families, among others. The protest ended with speeches in front of Parliament from supporters and union representatives from the International Dockworkers Council, vowing to continue to support the struggle against precarious labor in Portuguese ports, a pitched battlefield in recent times, as the dockers have been under attack by neoliberal attempts to replace them with cheap, untrained and replaceable labor.
Andy Green from Tilbury speaking in Sines in January 2016:
Marc Storms from Antwerp speaking at the same conference in Sines:
Labour historian Raquel Varela speaking in Sines: