Indefinite strike at Transmediterranea shipping line

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Worker representatives at Transmediterranea - the principal Spanish shipping line - called an indefinite strike as from 5 December 1997 to protest against redundancies and the announcement that six cargo ships will be sold.

An indefinite strike was called by worker representatives at Transmediterranea- the main Spanish shipping line - from 5 December 1997. The main reason for the strike is the company's announcement of redundancies on board eight cargo ships. According to the trade unions, this violates agreements reached with management on staffing levels. The redundancies would affect 65 jobs and, furthermore, the redundancy plan is accompanied by a series of modifications in the earnings and working conditions of the workers (a wage reduction and an increase in working hours), that have been rejected by the workers' representatives. The strike has also been called in protest against the company's announcement that it intends to put six cargo ships on sale. If these ships are sold, 120 jobs will be threatened.

According to the unions calling the strike - UGT-MAR, the Free Merchant Navy Union (Sindicato Libre de la Marina Mercante, SLMM), the Spanish Union of Merchant Navy Officers (Sindicato Español de Oficiales de la Marina Mercante, SEOMM) and the Merchant Navy Workers' Union (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Marina Mercante, STMM) - the minimum service requirements established by the Ministry of Labour constitute a limitation on the right to strike since they involve providing almost 100% of the customary services of the company, instead of the 60% as stated in the preliminary strike announcement. Consequently, the strike has been limited fundamentally to the refusal of the crew of the company to work overtime, to secure and release cargoes and to carry out passenger-attention services.

Also, according to UGT-MAR, the majority trade union in Transmediterranea, the company has used all available means to break the strike. On 9 December, more than 200 lorries and refrigerated containers were paralysed in the port of Cádiz because of the strike. The dispute led to the intervention of Guardia Civil riot-control officers in stopping the striking workers from preventing the unloading of a ship, and ended with the arrest of six workers who were released the following morning. UGT has also denounced Transmediterranea for using ships that allegedly do not fulfil minimum safety requirements and for forcing temporary workers to sign documents stating whether or not they supported the strike.

To resolve the strike, the strike committee is demanding compliance with current agreements covering staffing levels signed by Transmediterranea and the union representatives, and the withdrawal of the order to sell the cargo ships. So far, there have been no negotiations between the company and the workers. If no conciliation is reached shortly, it is foreseeable that the dispute will become more serious and that the services offered by the company will be further affected.

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