The much-awaited reprieve from the strike at the border by the Police Nacionale has not happened.
The misinformation circulating around was that the police were going to take August off from their work-to-rule and this would ease the pressure at the frontier.
But cross-border workers are still facing delays of two or three hours to leave Gib every night, as the police check documentation and ID for everyone in a vehicle.
Apparently there have also been queues for pedestrians, as many workers are now leaving their cars at La Linea and walking across in the morning to avoid being late for work.
Luckily, touch wood, I haven’t had to queue when I have crossed the border, but there again, I haven’t been going at peak work-related times.
So at the weekend, I cruised merrily across without any delay.
Only to find the bus company was on strike. In Andalucía there is some odd rule about needing to provide a 25% service for strikes. So there was a bus the following morning at 7.15am, or there was one that night from Algeciras at 10pm which would have got me back too late to Málaga to get the last bus to my pueblo.
Wearily I turned round and trudged all the way back to the flat.
Partner said: “It wasn’t destined to happen.”
I had already gone back to the flat once after setting off because I had forgotten my keys. I’d arrived at the bus stop at exactly the same time as the bus and jumped on. Except I didn’t have any sterling on me so had to pay in euros (which, for anyone who doesn’t know about the rates in Gib, is dearer). Then I was sitting on the bus doing the double-check routine, passport, money (well euros anyway) and keys. No keys. I promptly jumped off the bus at the next stop, having paid a euro to travel a few yards. Damn. After that it was going to be quicker to walk to the frontier so I battled my way against all the tourists down Main Street. And on finding there were no buses, battled my way back against them.
Yesterday, I looked at the internet to see if there was any progress on the strike. Apparently there was going to be a meeting between the workers and management. I decided to wander over the border (needing a walk anyway), and see if there was any news at the bus station. No. Exactly the same. The really inconvenient 7.15am bus was still the only one of the day.
Did I need to buy a ticket in advance? I asked, thinking it might well be booked out.
No, said the ticket office man, there is no problem.
No, I thought, I’m hardly surprised. I hadn’t even worked out what time I would have to get up, to wake myself up sufficiently to stagger down Main Street and across the border in time to get the bus.
Anyway, back to the bus strike. I see from a quick search today that the strike has now finished after more than six hours of intense negotiations, and a vote late last night to accept improved terms and conditions. The vote was 267 in favour of accepting the deal and 37 against.
According to Sur, the problems started when it was taken over by the British Company Doughty Hudson. Employees were unhappy with the terms and conditions and the health and safety practices.
The workers have accepted the offer of an extra 50 euros a month over the next two years, (30€ in 2009 and 20€ in 2010), a better deal for working Sundays and Bank Holidays, two days off a week, and a 1.5% cost of living rise.
The strike started last Wednesday (6 August) and has affected some 40,000 travellers a day. As well as me, of course.
The service should be back to normal between today and tomorrow.