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The exiled Catalan MP, Anna Gabriel, has been elected by a large majority as the new secretary of the Swiss trade union Unia for Geneva. Gabriel will become the first woman to hold this position. "I am delighted to take on, working with a team of women, responsibilities that I take very seriously. Workers' rights will be at the heart of my thinking," said the new Geneva leader of the Swiss union, according to the Tribune de Genève newspaper.

Gabriel will take up office this Thursday, filling a position that has been vacant for a year and a half. She will take over from Alessandro Pelizzaria. Gabriel joined the union in 2018, the year in which she left Catalonia for exile in Switzerland. Unia is the largest union in the country, bringing together private sector workers, especially in the manufacturing, transportation and services sectors. According to Swiss media, the Geneva division is one of the most left-leaning union regions.

An all-women team

Anna Gabriel joins a leadership made up entirely of women. It is a fact that Aldo Ferrari, national vice president of the union values very positively. "She is a clear, results-oriented woman, committed at all levels of the organization. Her position is complex and requires both managerial skills and the confidence of the members. Her appointment will go well in both the political and trade union world, which is often populated by men in dominant roles".

Ferrari has praised the feminization of the management in Geneva, seeing it as a way to attract new members from professional sectors that have a high proportion of female employees but low union membership. Gabriel for her part celebrates being able to work with a team of women.

Recognition of new responsibility

The news of Gabriel's election as the union's new secretary in Geneva has appeared on the front page of the Tribune de Genève as well as attracting broader attention. Messages of congratulations to the former Catalan deputy in exile's new challenge have not been long in coming.

Catalan president in exile Carles Puigdemont congratulated Gabriel via social media. "Congratulations to Anna Gabriel for her work and for her new responsibility, which was not gifted to her [but rather] has been earned through hard work," he said.

tuit puigdemont anna gabriel

Puigdemont also took the opportunity to emphasize that the struggle for workers’ rights is international and that "in Catalonia there is a culture of struggle that comes from long ago and that Anna knows well”.

Spanish and Catalan members

Anna Gabriel was a Catalan MP and parliamentary spokesperson for the pro-independence CUP (Popular Unity Candidature) at the time of the referendum on independence from Spain of 1st October, 2017. In early 2018, when under investigation by Spanish justice for her part in the independence process, she went into exile in Switzerland. The charge for which she was being investigated was defined in March 2018 as disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.

Asked by the Tribune de Genève whether Gabriel's past in the Catalan independence movement might be a problem for her new appointment, Aldo Ferrari commented: “We have Spanish and Catalan members and this issue has obviously been addressed.” The Unia official said that there was no reason for the Catalan's commitment to spill over into her job, in which she defends union internationalism.    


Main image: Anna Gabriel, former Catalan deputy in exile, in Geneva / Efe