Unite Brexit Conferences: Gibraltar’s chief minister lauds Unite’s efforts in building constructive dialogue between Spain and the Rock

Gibraltar’s chief minister has praised Unite’s role in helping him develop constructive relationships with Spanish political parties over the Rock’s post-Brexit future.

Speaking at Unite’s Gibraltar regional Brexit conference, Fabian Picardo said the union had helped him “prosper and grow” political relationships in Spain through its work with Spanish trade unions.

Since 2014, Unite has worked with Spain’s two biggest trade unions, CCOO and UGT, on the Cross Frontier Group (CFG).

Relations between the Spanish and Gibraltarian unions were further strengthened last year with the creation of the Southern inter-regional trade union council (IRTUC) – set up to ensure that the interests of Gibraltar’s workers are not sidelined during the Brexit process.

Picardo told the conference that although there are still many difficult issues to be resolved in the discussions over Spain and Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relationship, Unite’s efforts have helped to strengthen the bonds and shared goals between politicians in Gibraltar and Spain who are working to protect working people.

Picardo said: “There is a strong ideological bond between the Gibraltar government and the left in Spain. In respect to the discussions we have with those who are ideologically at the same position as us in Spain, or Spanish politicians in Brussels, it’s very fluid, it’s very positive and we are almost always on the exactly the same page.

“In fact, one of the things Unite has helped me to do very successfully is to ensure those links prosper and grow through the Cross Frontier Group and with the relationships in particular with CCOO and UGT.”

Spanish trade unions have lobbied their government and opposition parties, emphasising the need to avoid a damaging hard Brexit and to not approach negotiations with Gibraltar in an opportunistic way.

Unite member Micheal Netto, who sits on the CFG, said the cross border collaboration had produced a positive change in the way political parties in Spain are talking about how Brexit should be handled in terms of Gibraltar.

He said: “One of the things we have seen recently is that there is a shift in the way the political parties in Spain see the issue of Gibraltar.

“That has come about by the way the Cross Frontier Group has spoken to (left-wing parties in Spain). This is definitely something that we’ve got to thank the Spanish trade unions for.”

CCOO head of international relations, Francisco Alfonsin, told the conference that Brexit was an attempt “to make the rich richer and the poor poorer” and should be seen as part of a wider effort to reduce workers’ rights across the EU by those who want to see a race to the bottom.

He said: “We are all implicated in Brexit because of the threat it presents to us all. The Spanish trade unions will support Unite all the way in defending cross-frontier workers rights.”

Head of Unite’s international department Simon Dubbins said he was proud that the Spanish and Gibraltarian unions were “working together and strengthening our solidarity”.

“We will not allow the nationalists in Spain and the nationalists in the UK to play worker against worker and we will fight to make sure workers on both sides of the border here are properly looked after in this process and not punished,” Dubbins said.