Tuesday, 7th August 2012

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Unite to commemorate 40th anniversary of 1972 General Strike

 Unite the Union has invited Gibraltar to participate in commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 General Strike which started on August 20th, developing into a general strike on the 22nd and “finishing victoriously on the 26th,” said a spokesman. They will also be honouring the leaders of this “very important breakthrough that changed the lives and rights of working people in Gibraltar.”

 Unite has called on members of the public who wish to contribute, whether they lived it directly or through any memorabilia they may have, to contact Marilyn Bramble at their offices on 20074185. Unite also wish to pay tribute “to all those people that made the General Strike a huge success.”

According to Unite, the social and economic conditions prior to 1972 meant that a new period of trade union militancy was to prevail thereafter. The withdrawal of Spanish labour with the frontier closure in 1969, he continued, cemented a new working-class consciousness independent from party political affiliation. This, said Unite, meant that the MOD could not continue to use Spanish cheap labour thereby emasculating the strength of trade unions. In addition, there was a rise of young militancy within the TGWU culminating with the split from the GLP/AACR in 1971. At the same time, leading toward the 1972 biennial pay review, Gibraltar experienced rising inflation due to the closed frontier, factors that gave the new union leadership more confidence in pursuing a wage claim in line with preserving working people’s living standards.

“Therefore, when the Official Employers in the Public Sector tabled a 40p weekly allowance not consolidated into basic pay for the ‘Cost of Living Allowance’, this was seen by the union as humiliating and an atmosphere of discontent ensued leading to the commencement of the General Strike: the final offer after the strike ended was four times higher, an increase of £1.85 in basic rates with the added bonus that this increase was consolidated in basic rates and also to be reflected in overtime earnings.

“The 1972 General Strike was one of the finest expressions of the new level of unity among workers, and a catalyst to pursue social, economic and political justice. Soon after the strike employers, including in the Private Sector, took the union seriously and negotiated a series of agreements that reflected too the ‘ Cost of Living Allowance’ against a background of growing union strength and organisation.

“TGWU membership during 1971-72, rose from 3,500 to 7,000 allowing the union to flex its muscle for demands in improved pay and conditions throughout Gibraltar. The success of the General Strike was epitomised by the new level of solidarity by all grades regardless of organizations, background, or sector. This brought about a union density within the labour market of around 55% -- one of the highest in Europe.

At the end of the strike the union held a mass meeting in a packed Queen’s Cinema where the Executive members were greeted with a standing ovation.

“As the TGWU resident officer and leader of the union, Jose Netto, stated in his message at the time, ‘the issue here is more than just money; it is the moral strength gained by the union and the workers as a result of the strike, their victory will be too important for it to slip from the memory of working people.”



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