Europe hits Spain with €3m fine for delay in deregulating stowage sector
A fortnight after dockworkers call off industrial action, EU Court of Justice calls Spanish government’s failure to liberalize ports ‘serious’
The European Union’s Court of Justice (CJEU) has fined Spain three million euros for its delay in deregulating the stowage sector in its ports. The decision comes only two weeks after dockworkers called off industrial action planned for July, which was in response to the Madrid government’s new law for the deregulation of the sector, accused by the EU of violating European rules.
On Thursday, the CJEU ruled that while the Spanish authorities had shown “goodwill” in “cooperating” with the European Commission during the process, but it criticized the government for its failure to deregulate the goods handling sector in Spanish ports “for a significant period of time”. In fact, 29 months have passed since the EU urged Spain to deregulate. Although the court called the infraction “serious”, the fine imposed is well below the 27,552 euros a day that was initially foreseen.
The conflict between the dockworkers and the sector trade association paralyzed ports and caused losses of up to €150 million, according to figures from the Spanish Ministry of Infrastructure. The agreement between the stevedore workers and the management was sealed on June 29 after unions got a pledge to protect 100% of jobs during the liberalization process, the strikers’ long-term demand.
The EU court first announced that Spain was failing to comply with European stowage rules due to a failure to deregulate the sector in December 2014. Initially, the Spanish government was given until September 20, 2015 to apply the reforms, which it failed to do, prompting the European Commission to call for a fine of 134,107.2 euros a day. Yet, the court set a fine of 27,552 euros a day until the government complied with the rules, and as the government passed new legislation regulating port stowage services - the source of the industrial action - the EU held off applying the fine, choosing on Thursday to impose a symbolic amount of three million euros, equivalent to an 108-day delay.