Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Police action not political but Trade Union pressure, says SUP

F Oliva reports

Frontier work-to-rule could end today * Union calls for construction of new frontier complex

Spanish Police Union work to rules have been causing serious delays at the Gibraltar Frontier during August.  It is hoped the dispute will be over shortly.The Policia Nacional has not attempted to interfere or harm the negotiations of the Tripartite Forum or the talks between the Gibraltar Government and Spain, Juan Manuel Sanchez, spokesman for the La Linea branch of the Sindicato Unificado de Policia (SUP), said to the Chronicle yesterday.

(Ed's note: The start of this paragraph is missing from the Chronicle's online news report!)... frontier which led to lengthy delays in crossing, their intention had been to apply pressure on the Spanish Government “to deliver on its word” following the signing of the annual police pay review.

It appears that Madrid has finally given the go-ahead for the implementation of the agreement as from the beginning of the week.

And barring a last minute surprise, a general assembly of SUP members at the Comisaria later today should back the formal lifting of all industrial action measures at the border and a return to normality.

“At present we are working normally and this should be confirmed by the assembly today,” he said.

Meanwhile Sr Sanchez has also called for the construction of a new frontier complex with modern facilities and an effective lay-out for the flow of vehicles and pedestrians.

He describes the current frontier as “third-world.”

“There should be two entry points into Gibraltar and two exit points, plus a channel for tourist coaches.

The frontier has to be renovated to get rid of the queues, and if this requires an agreement with the Gibraltar Government, so be it,”.

The Pay Dispute

The pay review had been agreed with the Minister for the Interior on April 5th 2005.

It has been the delay in the implementation of the deal and the payment of arrears that sparked off the work-to-rule action that was initially intended to have effect on a national scale.

The claim was divided in three segments – an increase of 30 euros a month in the basic salary, the consolidation of half the productivity allowance, in effect an extra 55 euros a month, and for the increases to be applied retrospectively to January.

Sr Sanchez accepts that it has been the La Linea-Gibraltar border where the police action has been most noticeable, although was quick to point out that the SUP had instructed its members to apply the work to rule throughout Spain.

He said action in the Algeciras Port had also been taken but there had been intervention by the Spanish Government to reduce its effect.

“There was clear interference to stop our action in the port since this would have created a huge crisis with Morocco.”

Sr Sanchez also argues that the choice of month for the action right in the middle of the summer had had far greater repercussions at the frontier than if this had been done in any other month.

He said that after a four month delay in the implementation of the pay review, the disgruntled policemen had not been willing to wait any longer.

“There are always queues in August because it is always a busier time,” he declared.

Historical Grievances

Meanwhile Sr Sanchez has also drawn attention to the long list of historical grievances that the Policia Nacional have suffered in La Linea over the past decade.

For example the official minimum complement for a city the size of La Linea should be 208 officers. Over the past few years transfers have vastly exceeded arrivals to the extent that today manpower stands at around only 140 policemen on duty.

“There has been a steady decline in numbers since the 1980’s when there were over 200 policemen.

Now with an open frontier and with the expansion of La Linea into the suburbs and the building of new districts, which means greater policing demands, we have a shortage of manpower.”

The SUP hope to fill at least 25 of those long-standing vacancies with the promotion of young recruits just out of the police academy, before the end of the year.

La Linea is also served by two other law-enforcement organisations, the Policia Local/Municipal that is controlled by the Ayuntamiento, and the Guardia Civil.

The general state of dilapidation of the Policia Nacional headquarters in La Linea which is badly in need of reinvestment and modernisation, is another of the pending claims that the police unions are constantly raising with the Ministerio del Interior.

Another irritant that provoked the Policia Nacional into action at the frontier, is that while they were engaged in difficult and lengthy negotiations to extract a 30 euros increase from the central Government for its members, the Ayuntamiento San Roque, that is also controlled by the PSOE, implemented a pay rise of 180 euros for the local police force [policia municipal] over the same period.

“The gulf in the salary of a local policeman, a regional policeman in the Basque Country of Catalonia and a Policia Nacional can reach between 60,000 to 70,000 pesetas, depending on the region. This just rubs salt in wounds, undermines morale and leads to a lack of motivation,” said Sr Sanchez.

As regards last week’s meeting with Salvador de la Encina (PSOE), Sr Sanchez said that the Campo socialist MP was acting as an envoy who affords them a measure of access to the Madrid Government in the formulation of their grievances.

Inter Union Rivalries

Police unions also have rivalries of their own. While the Sindicato Unificado de Policia has traditionally been the majority and dominant union in Spain, other unions have also emerged. The UFP followed suit while more recently the CEP [Confederacion Espanola de Policia] that resulted from the coalition of smaller unions, have now come forward and are attempting to establish a presence in La Linea.

There is some tension in relations between the SUP and the CEP. Sr Sanchez denies CEP claims that the delays at the border were caused not by the work to rule industrial action but by the application of counter-terrorism measures.

The CEP went as far as publicly stating that there was no industrial action at all. Sr Sanchez further describes the CEP as “incoherent.”

Ayuntamiento writes to Central Government

Meanwhile the La Linea councillor for security Francisco Muñiz has written to the Madrid Government supporting the call made from several quarters – including the SUP – for the Policia Nacional to be given the extra material and human resources it requires to continue doing its job “with the same degree of effectiveness and professionalism, despite the shortage of means and officers.”

A similar letter has also been written to Salvador de la Encina reminding him of “the promises made regarding the need for more policemen to be assigned to the La Linea Policia Nacional to fill existing vacancies.”

Sr Muñiz adds that La Linea’s peculiar policing situation is derived from several factors that would require additional resources for the Policia Nacional.

“Its status as a frontier town with the colony of Gibraltar, its long stretch of 12 kilometres of coastline and the geographical proximity with the African continent, result in a significant increase in population during the summer months. Contrary to what happens in other cities there is no reinforcement of the Policia Nacional complement,” he said.

This is the fifth letter on the subject addressed to the Minister for the Interior José Antonio Alonso.

More Delays?

Meanwhile, there have been unconfirmed reports that following the capture in La Linea of a vehicle that had smuggled a notable quantity of tobacco from Gibraltar, the Guardia Civil officers on duty had been reprimanded by their superiors. As a result this could lead to the Guardia Civil implementing tighter customs controls over the next few days.

Related Articles and Links:

21 August 2005 - PSOE MP to mediate as Frontier action set to continue

09 August 2005 - Work to rule by Policia Nacional creates bottleneck at frontier

08 August 2005 - Noisy frontier protest as car queues worsen

02 August 2005 - Go-Slow does not affect frontier flow

30 July 2005 - Spanish Police declare go-slow at Frontier

Policia Nacional

Spanish Police Trade Unions:

SUP - Sindicato Unificado de Policia
UFP - Union Federal Policia
CEP - Confederacion Espanola de Policia

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