Workers' Day Message
The origins of International Workers’ Day or May Day was an international call for workers to come together and demand the legal establishment of an eight hour working day, and it is this that we celebrate today. We celebrate workers’ rights, working class solidarity and join those still fighting for them.
Despite our incumbent ‘socialist’ government, this past year, the people of Gibraltar have had to again come together to demand their basic rights and say ‘enough! No more!’ to zero hour contracts. These afford little to no rights to our most vulnerable workers with no sick or holiday pay, no entitlements and little security. Workers are paid less than their colleagues for doing the same job with the difference being pocketed by the contracted employer at the expense of the taxpayer.
After almost 20 years of impeccable service, the Master Services contract was re allocated leaving some of our lowest earners vulnerable and having to transfer contracts. Rather than create further direct employment opportunities, GoG have instead engaged private contractors. The financial benefit will now remain at this level rather than trickle down to the employees, many of who are on minimum wage and have less than desirable employment conditions and prospects.
Those on lower incomes also suffer when it comes to their pensions while those on high incomes benefit from high paid pensions, community care payments at a younger age, and huge gratuities. We also have private sector pensioners with considerable pensions being re-employed within the civil service on lucrative salaries with their full entitlement to community care, while the labourer that works too many hours, is stripped of theirs. The disparity between the private and public sector is widening.
The inequality of pensions will continue with the Government’s newly announced private sector pension proposal. There still remains a sizeable group of retired people living below the breadline. They were promised a reasonable income by the Chief Minister who has so far failed to deliver on his promises over his last two terms in office, having promised to link pension income to average earnings and not yet met its promises. Meanwhile, those on minimum wage are not included at all in the new proposals while some employees will have to wait another six or seven years for employer pension contributions. The pension age is still unequal despite an eight-year-old manifesto commitment from the GSLP and remains discriminatory. The wage gap at pensionable age becomes even wider. Not good enough!
While we boast of one of the highest GDPs in the world, our minimum wage is not a liveable wage and our allowances for those who cannot work or are searching for work, fall short of European standards. Considering the high cost of living in our Gibraltar, the most basic of needs are not being met.
The young are not given ample opportunity for apprenticeships to build solid careers, and we still rely on workers crossing the border when our own are untrained and have no hope of a job.
Today’s workplace inequalities include not recognising the full extent of mental health issues and bullying in the workplace, with no adequate way of dealing with them again and leaving the most vulnerable in an untenable position. Discriminatory issues and biases are also not adequately addressed or dealt with, including not creating an inclusive environment for those with disabilities.
These workers are not invisible. They are our sons, daughters, mothers, brothers, sisters, neighbours and friends. They are family.
Workers have taken to the streets this year and will continue to do so to demand fair work for a fair pay. Only tomorrow there will be yet another demonstration by teachers to demand an end to their ongoing and long term pay claims.
Together Gibraltar pledges to not only address all these inequalities but to ensure that the people of Gibraltar are listened to, and form part of a wide consultation process to ensure all legislation regarding workers rights is transparent and fair.
A Gibraltar Together for all.