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In Event of Hard Brexit Gibraltar Guarantees Cross-Frontier Workers’ Rights

Soraya Fernández · Photos: Fran Montes

Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo

Brexit: Gibraltar Guarantees Cross-Frontier Workers’ Rights in Event of Hard Brexit

Uncertainty grows among the 15,000 people affected, but Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo guarantees their rights if the United Kingdom and Gibraltar quit the EU without a deal.

Mindful of the worries created by the uncertainties surrounding the possible withdrawal from the European Union (“EU”) of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar, the Government of Gibraltar has clarified the prospects of almost half of the Rock’s workforce.

There are 14,740 people who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar. Most are Spanish (9,158) and citizens of other EU Member States and 2,365 Britons. In addition there are many non- EU citizens. They are called cross-frontier workers.

Gibraltar Frontier
Gibraltar Frontier @Fran Montes

In La Linea, Brexit jitters increase as the deadlines approach. As is the case in Gibraltar, the bulk of the population does not approve of this divorce on account of the economic and social impact that it could bring and there is a fear of a repeat of the debacle that the municipality suffered 50 years ago with the closure of the frontier.

Spanish workers whose ranking in the Gibraltarian labour market has improved in recent years as they have been able to access senior posts, are lost in a sea of doubts as to what this uncertain future will bring and as to whether they could lose their jobs or employment rights on the Rock. They are also very worried about frontier fluidity.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo is indefatigable in insisting that come what may, the rights of these workers will be respected and that under no circumstances should they be used as “bargaining chips to obtain an advantage in any negotiations”.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo
Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo @Fran Montes

What is more, the Gibraltar Government does not want the disquiet which this situation has caused them to escalate and has published its plans to guarantee the employment rights of this important group of people in the event that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar withdraw from the EU without a deal.

Picardo is adamant about the importance of maintaining solid protections of working rights and has given assurances that the EU legislation in this field will continue to apply and will become part of Gibraltar’s domestic law even as it leaves the EU.

He recalls that pre-Brexit labour law rights and protections emanate from EU norms which include a series of workers’ rights and obligations.

So, what happens after Brexit? In the event of a withdrawal agreement including Gibraltar being reached there will be a transition period up to the end of 2020 and the status of workers’ rights will remain unaltered until then.

The Gibraltar Government has made plans for the worst case scenario of a withdrawal without agreement.

Thus, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 safeguards all workers’ rights under EU Directives which means that all workers currently in Gibraltar will retain all existing rights and protections currently enjoyed by virtue of EU norms under the domestic law of Gibraltar.

In the event of a “hard Brexit” these rights will include holiday rights, paid holidays and rest periods, family provisions such as maternity and paternity leave; health and safety rules and protection against discrimination and harassment.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo
Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo

Also included will be transfer of undertakings (TUPE) rights covering situations where there is a transfer of a business or of contracts and insolvency provisions under the Employment Act and subsidiary legislation.

Convent Place maintains that local legislation already exceeds EU levels of protection in several respects.

That said amendments will be enacted to reflect the fact that Gibraltar is exiting the EU but so that it is clear that current policies will remain in force to ensure “legal certainty to allow a smooth transition from the date of withdrawal from the EU.

“We are missing a great opportunity”

Lorenzo Pérez-Periáñez is a member of the Cross Frontier Group which is formed of trades unions, employers’ associations and organisations from both sides of the frontier. He laments the repercussions that Brexit is already having:

“So far it has caused investments in the zone to stall and a devaluation of sterling”.

As an expert in the social and economic fabric of the area he says that in the Campo de Gibraltar and particularly La Linea “we have the feeling that we have wasted time and a great opportunity to furnish the zone with investment in much needed infrastructure and a special tax regime for La Linea of the kind that Gibraltar has. Had it been thus we could have substituted the word “uncertainty” for “opportunity” and instead of being dependent on Gibraltar we could have been complementary to its economy” he says.

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