Council workers in La Linea yesterday blocked the main road leading to Gibraltar with burning tyres, in an hour-long protest over pay.
Masked workers laid around 20 tyres across the road at the Rocamar roundabout and set them alight, creating a plume of dense black smoke and bringing all traffic to a standstill.
Firemen arrived at the scene after about 30 minutes and extinguished the fires, while Policia Nacional officers carrying batons and helmets moved in to disperse the workers.
There were no arrests, though police are checking video and documentary evidence to try and establish the identity of the workers who set out the burning barricade.
“We’ve cut off La Linea with fire,” said Jose Porras Najanjo, the provincial secretary for leading union UGT and a ringleader in the protests.
The workers are demanding that the regional government intervene and take over the La Linea council.
Yesterday’s protest marked a sharp escalation in their tactics and came despite the council paying 55% of overdue salaries for July earlier that morning.
From the Rocamar, the workers marched back under heavy police guard to the Palacio de Congresos, where the council is temporarily housed.
One lane was kept clear, which meant traffic heading into La Linea and Gibraltar was able to squeeze past.
Sr Porras told the Chronicle that the workers did not want to target the border because their row was with the mayor, not Gibraltar.
“All these workers want is to get paid,” he said.
In the Palacio, the workers marched in and held a heated meeting where they set out their plans for the coming days.
Union leaders will travel to Cádiz to meet with regional government representatives and urge them to step in and take control of La Linea’s finances.
The daily streets protests will continue in the run-up to a massive demonstration planned at 8pm on August 20.
The unions hope to drum up support among La Linea’s citizens and get as many as five thousand people out on the streets.
But the union leaders also have many critics, many of whom say that they are targeting La Linea because it is run by the Popular Party.
In PSOE-run councils such as Los Barrios, where workers have not been paid for many weeks, the unions have barely raised their heads, these critics say.