Gathering strength and ready to push

By Irune Lasa and Pello Urzelai, Berria, Thursday 18 March 2004

Basque Nationalist Trade Unions. In the relations between ELA and LAB the 10th anniversary of the demand for a Basque sphere in Labour Relations has turned into the symbolic beginning of a new era

The ELA and LAB trade unions highlighted a clear message with a demonstration and the event at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbo last Friday: they are going to work together to achieve the Basque Sphere in Labour Relations they have been demanding for the last ten years, and also to play their part in the process of self-determination. Jose Elorrieta and Rafa Diez, the General Secretaries of the ELA and LAB unions, respectively, together satisfied BERRIA's curiosity.

What sense do you want to give to the Euskalduna Palace event?

Elorrieta: We want to emphasise the progress we have made by looking at how we were ten years ago. By looking forwards from that perspective we wanted to hold a joint event and look at what opportunities we have in the trade union, social and political sphere. What we want to tell our people is that we have learnt a lot through the process, that we have a lot of strength through working together and that we are prepared to exercise our options without having any complex about doing so.

Diez: A new era was ushered in with that demonstration of ten years ago; we in ELA and LAB made a great contribution towards joint trade union and socio-political cooperation. And since then we have demonstrated the cooperation to take our country into another arena, because we have to gather together strength and achieve other agreements. In the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement we in ELA and LAB led the way, and this contribution was crucial in the Basque Country's political arena. Now, ten years on, we are not looking at a classical anniversary.

So it is a special anniversary that has come at a special time, isn't it?

Diez: We in ELA and LAB are in no doubt that the political process is underway and that it offers us a great opportunity. That is what we want to highlight with the Euskalduna Palace event. We have to gather strength, new agreements are needed. We are convinced that this is what society is waiting for. Society is demanding commitments of fresh cooperation. And we as trade unionists want to lead the way here. We want to show that it is possible. We know that many people are looking to us, that people have confidence in the cooperation between ELA and LAB, and we hope to be able to respond appropriately to that confidence.

Things are moving then, are they?

Elorrieta: ELA and LAB are looking at what is taking place on the political level very closely. Not just as mere onlookers, we are interested in seeing an end to the political impasse. Moreover, we do have our role to play, even though it isn't the main one. We have to leave the media confusion on one side and seek out the opportunities that exist to reach a point of inflection in what is happening beneath the surface, and that point has to be reached as soon as possible. Luckily, from our standpoint at least, we all have an increasingly clearer idea about what we have to do and how we have to achieve it. If our political reflection is needed, we are prepared to collaborate. Maybe it does not look all that transparent, there are no conditions for it, but I think that in the short term it is going to be on the agenda.