(Adding vote, background)
MADRID May 18 Spain's lower house of parliament
narrowly passed a long-delayed reform of port operations on
Thursday, bringing regulation closer to that of the European
Union though the overhaul has been slammed by unions that have
threatened widespread strikes.
The decree, which was rejected the first time it was given
to legislators in March, aims to liberalise hiring in a sector
strictly controlled by the unions and comes after months of
fines by the EU for not adhering to European regulation.
Members of parliament voted 174 for the reform and 165
against, with eight abstentions.
The European Commission has fined Spain more than 21 million
euros ($23.4 million) since 2014 for not overturning labour
practices and bringing them in line with EU regulation and has
said that fine would be increased if a reform was not passed.
The proposal had been sent to Brussels and has been given
the go ahead, Public Works Minister Inigo de la Serna said on
Spain is home to the Mediterranean's two largest ports,
Valencia and Algeciras, as well as the smaller port in
Barcelona. Some two thirds of Spain's imports and exports, a key
element of the recovering economy, are moved through the
The latest version of the reform won support after the
government toned down its stance on workers contracted to load
and unload vehicles due for import and export, prompting the
nationalist Catalan party PDeCAT to abstain.
The unions said last week, after the government announced
the details of the reform, it would call eight days of
industrial action - four in May and four in June - if the
parliament ratified the law.
Port workers association Anesco has said that it had seen a
slow down in production levels on the country's docks since
Tuesday, calling it an unofficial strike.
($1 = 0.8983 euros)
(Reporting by Rodrigo de Miguel and Robert Hetz; Writing by
Paul Day; Editing by Angus Berwick and Ralph Boulton)