(Adds quotes, details)
MADRID Feb 24 Spain's cabinet passed a draft
law on Friday to end closed-shop hiring at the country's ports,
putting the government on a collision course with unions which
have called nine days of strikes that are likely to decimate
Around two-thirds of Spain's imports and exports pass
through its ports, and prolonged industrial action could be
especially painful for the country's automobile industry and
The bill, which attempts to bring Spain's restrictive port
labour practices into line with the rest of Europe, still faces
an uncertain passage through parliament.
The governing People's Party does not enjoy a parliamentary
majority and will need to reach an accord with opposition
parties if the draft is to become law.
Companies currently have no say over hiring and firing at
Spanish ports. The new law aims to permit them to chose their
own staff rather than being bound by union-approved lists.
"This is the only economic sector where there isn't free
hiring in our country," Industry Minister Inigo de la Serna said
on Friday after a weekly cabinet meeting.
"We're convinced we are going to reach an agreement on this
matter with the unions as soon as possible, if there is
willingness on their part to do so."
Spain has already paid 21.5 million euros ($22.8 million) in
fines since 2014 for failing to bring port labour practices in
line with EU norms, de la Serna said on Friday. If the new law
is not implemented soon, the fine would rise to more than
134,000 euros a day, he said.
The dockers' unions are planning to strike for 12 hours a
day, every other day barring weekends, from March 6 to March 24,
a system they say will allow urgent cargo to be processed.
($1 = 0.9422 euros)
(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Julien Toyer and John