TRIBUTES rained in this week as Gibraltar mourned the death of one of its great trade unionists Jose Netto this week at the age of 92.
Unite the Union and the Acting Chief Minister Fabian Picardo led the praise for Netto, who fought for workers’ rights and trade unionism in Gibraltar all his life.
Unite called him ‘one of the driving forces behind the growth and success of the TGWU and its predecessors’ in a social media statement.
The Trade and General Workers Union was a leading voice on the Rock for equality during the troubled closed frontier days.
Born in 1931, he smuggled anti-Franco publicity into Spain after meeting up with Spanish Civil War refugees and feeding on their dissent.
He first came to prominence with the union in 1972 and just a month after taking over as TGWU district officer he organised the first general strike in Gibraltar.
He worked with Sir Joe Bossano during the closed frontier years before criticising him when the GSLP co-founder came to office in 1996.
“Jose’s achievements are many, but the General Strike which marked its 50th anniversary last year was chief amongst these,” Unite said in their statement.
His campaigns are now well-illustrated at Transport House a stone’s throw from Convent Place.
As a key campaigner for the rights of Moroccan workers in Gibraltar and a fighter for the most vulnerable in society, his leadership was a foundation for many of the civil liberties working people won.
“Jose was and remains an inspiration for union activists and members in relation to the working class struggle, socialism, solidarity and trade unionism in Gibraltar,” Unite the Union added.
Netto received the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour in 2009 for his services to trade unionism after retiring in 1996.
He then gifted his personal collection of Gibraltar-related books to the local university at Europa Point.
Picardo called him ‘a pillar of trade unionism in Gibraltar’ in a government statement.
He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jose Netto.
“Jose was a lifelong unionist who is most well remembered for his time as District Officer of the TGWU.
“I would like to express my most sincere condolences to his sons Michael and Jaime and his daughter Annie, as well as his wider family and friends, on behalf of the Government and People of Gibraltar.”
Finally GSD leader Keith Azopardi called him ‘a legend of trade unionism and an astute analyst of people and labour situations’.
“He made a massive contribution to Gibraltar and many people owe the terms they enjoy today to his efforts and those of that cadre of union leaders of that time,” Azopardi added.
Both his sons followed his father’s footsteps into the union and have become talismans in their own rights, ensuring his legacy continued.