IDC, 24/11/2016. Brussels (European Union). The European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc held a meeting on November 21 with members of the leadership of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC). The delegation included IDC General Coordinator Jordi Aragunde, IDC European Zone Coordinator Anthony Tetard, General Coordinator of the Spanish dockers’ union Coordinadora and former IDC General Coordinator Antolín Goya, General Secretary of the Belgian ACV Transcom union Michel Claes along with other attendees. The meeting with the Commissioner focused primarily on the currents ports model in both Spain and Belgium.
The discussion on Spain centered on the European Union’s drive to deregulate the country’s port labor and make it abide by the freedom of establishment provisions set down by the European Union. The European Court of Justice handed down a decision on the 11th December 2014 which obligated Spain to move in the direction set out by the E.U., with the country being further reprimanded by the European Commission in late April for continuing to be in breach of the European Court’s decision.
On behalf of the IDC, both General Coordinator Jordi Aragunde and European Zone Coordinator Anthony Tetard flatly rejected the European Commission’s taking of such unilateral measures without seeking any agreement with the Spanish government. Nevertheless, both Aragunde and Tetard expressed their willingness to establish dialogue with both the Spanish government and the European Union to lessen the impact of the consequences of the application of the European Court’s sentence, a sentence that can only damage the interests of workers. On this point, Commissioner Bulc indicated during the meeting that she was in favor of genuine negotiations to try and resolve this matter.
In this regard, the European Commissioner has opened up paths towards dialogue with the Spanish and international union representatives. Commissioner Bulc has instructed these union representatives to maintain a close relationship with the various administrations in order to explore options for the active participation of the different agents in negotiations with the Spanish government, with a view to establishing new regulations that will settle the matter of the European Court ruling.
IDC General Coordinator Jordi Aragunde welcomed the sincerity displayed by Commissioner Bulc, and added that: "we will continue fighting for consensus and for a better future for dockworkers".
Belgium, a conflict awaiting a solution
Belgian dockers face a similar situation to their Spanish counterparts, with the E.U. also pushing to deregulate that country’s port labor system. Referring to this situation, ACV Transcom General Secretary Michel Claes informed Violeta Bulc that "we have worked hard to find a solution in our country and this should be easy". Claes also stressed that "there will soon be a decision in order to begin the implementation of this". Nevertheless, the union representatives left the meeting feeling positive with regard to this matter.
Bulc responded that she saw the glass as being half full and that, thanks to the process of social dialogue, there will soon be news of the process that the Belgian workers are in discussions with the companies and administration of their country.
Proposals for Sectoral Social Dialogue
The IDC representatives also spoke to Bulc about their intention to actively continue to participate in the Sectoral Social Dialogue meetings next year. These meetings see the participation of unions, employers’ organizations and various public administrators and are sponsored by the European Commission.
In this area, the highest functionary for E.U. Transport told those present that the European Commission is not expected to legislate on these matters during 2017, and has encouraged the IDC to present their proposals so that they can be studied in upcoming meetings.
The meeting that IDC leaders held with Violeta Bulc is in line with the position of the IDC - and the mandate from its General Assembly - to consolidate its position as the representative organization for dockworkers the world over, one that defends the labor rights of all its members through unity and the strength of the over 100,000 members that make up the IDC around the globe (including over 20,000 in Europe alone).
The IDC has previously participated in joint negotiations and offered its support to national unions on various occasions in the past few months, such as in the cases of Paraguay and Portugal. In the meeting with the European Commissioner, the global union federation has also demonstrated its capacity to bring together at the one table the workers’ representatives from France, Spain and Belgium, three of the most powerful European countries in terms of dockworker organization, in order to discuss the rights of working people with an administrative body as internationally important as the European Commission.
The International Dockworkers Council (IDC)
The International Dockworkers Council (IDC) is a global union federation which was formally founded in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the Canary Islands of Spain in 2000. Today it brings together close to 100,000 dockworkers across five continents, and works to defend workers and their jobs through both training and the continual improvement of their working conditions.
With its central office in the city of Barcelona, Spain, the IDC is organized into six different zones (Europe, Africa, West Coast of North America and the Pacific, East Coast of North America, Oceania and Latin America), each with its own Coordinator who was nominated at the General Assembly.