The Spanish parliament has approved a royal decree to liberalise the country's port operations, after obtaining majority of votes in favour of the reform.

A total of 174 votes were given in favour, with 165 votes against and eight abstentions also received by the Spanish parliament before approving the reform.

The reform seeks to liberalise Spain’s port labour and to avoid heavy European Union fines, reported AP.

The country also aims to end monopoly by the workers’ association with the new initative, which reportedly has ultimate control over the people selected for employment at Spanish ports.

International Transport Workers’ Federation president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said: “This is a betrayal of Spain’s dockworkers, and even of its national interests.

"What we’re looking at here is a piece of cynical horse-trading by political parties who don’t care what the effect will be on the human beings who work in these ports.

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"This is a betrayal of Spain’s dockworkers, and even of its national interests; what we’re looking at here is a piece of cynical horse-trading by political parties."

“We warned back in February that the government was tearing up the rule book with a callous disregard for jobs, Spanish prestige and international conventions, and what the consequences would be.

“The will now face a unified front of the world’s dockworkers supporting their Spanish colleagues.”

Dockworker unions have threatened to counter the reform with strikes beginning on 24 May if jobs are threatened as a result of the motion's passing.

European Transport Workers’ Federation dockers section chair Terje Samuelsen said: “This decision risks bringing into place a plan to aggressively and destructively liberalise port labour.

“It doesn’t even have the excuse of being in line with European Union rules; it goes recklessly beyond them. Unions are being forced into strike action.

“They will be supported by their trade union colleagues everywhere. The repercussions of this vote will spread far and wide, beginning with the ETF congress in Barcelona next week.”

Despite this, the Spanish government has noted the decree meets EU requirements, and has promised a second bill containing early retirement funds and other criteria for the port workers.