Bilbao, Spain (PortSEurope) November 17, 2020 – The Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, president of the Basque government, has formally asked the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, to end the dockers’ strike in the Port of Bilbao, which is now 40 days old and could last until December 9. There is no sight in end for the strike which is having a serious damaging affects on the port’s
operations. Labour unions and port operators are in dispute about the collective agreement between the two sides. Compulsory arbitration is included in a royal decree of 1977 and says that “the Government, at the suggestion of the Ministry of Labour, may impose it to end a strike taking into account: “the duration of the strike, the positions of the parties and the serious damage to the state’s economy ”. It has been applied only on a few occasions, such as in the conflict between air traffic controllers, and has also been used by the Basque Executive at an autonomous level. But the port of Bilbao is the responsibility of the State and, therefore, the measure must be adopted by the Sánchez cabinet. The central government is considering the request and could address the issue at the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers. The Executive has been working on the problem all weekend, requesting multiple reports given the sensitivity of the issue, if it were to limit the right to strike. In the event that the decision finally does not go ahead today, it would be postponed for a week. Urkullu has taken this decision after the Minister of Economic Development, Arantxa Tapia, requested the intervention of the Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos, on several occasions, without any significant response. Tapia has been very critical of stevedores, whom he has accused of “failing to comply with minimum services” and putting the industry at “serious risk”, forcing shippers to divert vessels other ports. The counselor has aligned herself with the companies in the sector grouped in Bilboestiba (Cosco, Bergé, SLP and Toro y Betolaza) to demand voluntary arbitration from the unions, which have rejected this option, which obliges them to comply with any decision. The Bilbao Port Authority , chaired by Ricardo Barkala, has also opted for this route and last Wednesday made one last attempt that did not work. However, the Vice-Lehendakari and Head of Employment and Labor, Idoia Mendia, has had a different approach to the conflict. First, she expressed her confidence that the striking workers “seek an innovative dialogue solution” and then, when she was criticised by the companies, she told them that “it is negligent to think that differences are resolved without negotiating. EH Bildu has given its support to the longshoremen. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2020.