MADRID May 12 The Spanish cabinet passed a
decree on Friday aimed at liberalizing the country's ports, a
second effort at a contentious law which has already been
rejected by parliament and prompted threats of widespread
The Mediterranean's largest ports, Valencia and Algeciras,
alongside the smaller port of Barcelona, help shift about two
thirds of Spain's imports and exports.
Prolonged industrial action could badly hurt Spain's
exports, which are worth about a third of economic output and
were key in dragging the country from recession following the
2008 property market crash.
The law has been amended since its last iteration, which was
blocked by the opposition in parliament, and must now return to
the lower house for approval.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's People's Party (PP) must win
support from smaller parties in parliament, especially
centre-right Ciudadanos which has 32 seats, as he does not have
Ciudadanos, which said on Friday it had not seen the most
recent proposal, previously abstained on the vote, denying the
government the simple majority it needed in the 350-seat
The government plans to present the reform to parliament on
May 18, Minister of Public Works Inigo de la Serna told a news
conference on Friday.
"We're optimistic the law will be passed," he said, adding
the government had talked to opposition parties about the bill.
He would not say which groups had agreed to change their
position on the reform.
Spain is under pressure from the European Commission to pass
the reforms and has already paid more than 21 million euros ($23
million) in fines since 2014 for failing to bring port labour
practices in line with EU regulation. That fine could rise if
the reform is not brought in to effect.
The previous decree caused uproar among unions who called
several strikes to protest the reform, which aims to end a
closed shop system at the ports. Companies currently have no say
over hiring and firing on Spanish docks.
Speaking before the announcement, the port representative in
Spain's second largest union, the UGT, Francisco Nunez, said any
attempt to pass the reform without consulting the unions would
likely prompt further strikes.
($1 = 0.9195 euros)
(Reporting by Paul Day, Editing by Angus Berwick and Angus