Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Opinion & Analysis

CHIEF MINISTER’S MAY DAY MESSAGE 2020 ‘Our strong commitment to protecting workers’

Eyleen Gomez

It is with a particular sense of pride that I celebrate International Workers’ Day with you this year. Whatever your trade or profession, you have all risen to the challenge of what the year 2020 has dealt us in the form of Covid-19.

This year, perhaps more than others, I am convinced I took the right decision to bring back the May Day Bank Holiday to 1st of May where we can celebrate as workers on our day, and not just on what, for some years, was an extended Bank Holiday weekend.

On any other year, in the GSLP family we would have got together to celebrate the dawning of Workers’ Day together. The situation we are living in has not allowed us to do so this year for the first time since the GSLP was created over 40 years ago.

As workers in Gibraltar, we often take for granted many things which are ahead of the benefits enjoyed by workers in other nations. Our basic rights are assured as a result of the struggle of workers many generations ago. That is what the celebrations of the 1st of May have traditionally been about commemorating.

The things we take for granted, like holidays, a minimum wage, respect for workers' rights, were all fought for by workers who risked their jobs, their families' wage and, in some cases, even their lives. So when I have had the chance to change things as Chief Minister, I have done so. I haven't just brought back the important May Day holiday: we have done much, much more.

The minimum wage (introduced in Gibraltar by Sir Joe Bossano and the first GSLP Government in 1988, before it was even introduced in the UK) has increased more in my time in office than ever before, because it principally affects those in low paid jobs in the private sector.

In fact, the minimum wage has increased by a third since we were elected. In fact, I am often attacked by employer organisations for increasing the minimum wage. Despite their criticisms, I know I am doing the right thing by supporting hard working, low paid people by increasing the minimum wage into the top half of the table of minimum wages in the EU, ie amongst the top in the whole world.

In fact, this year our BEAT Covid Measures have used the minimum wage as the benchmark for the amount that the Government has paid directly to the workers in our economy who have been made inactive by Covid-19. That shows in practice our strong commitment to protecting workers and putting a shield around them at this difficult time. We are also protecting employment by having shut off the possibility for employers to sack people at this time.

Whilst the GSLP Liberals are in office, there will be no dilution of workers’ rights in Gibraltar. That is a commitment that you have not had from any other political party.

As a TGWU/Unite member for more than twenty years myself, I am deeply committed to the principles that socialists defend throughout the world today.

This year there is no fun day, there is no rally and there are no speeches. But that should not make us feel any less socialist or any less committed to the celebration of Workers Day on the 1st of May. Whilst the GSLP is in Government, the 1st of May will always be a holiday.

For me, socialist values are the foundation of my party and my family's success. They are the foundation of Gibraltar's prosperity.

They are the principles, as I will explain to my children, that have helped my family, my Party and our nation to prosper. They must understand that.

Generations of workers, and generations of Gibraltarian workers in particular, have made sacrifices to secure the rights that delivered dignified working conditions and the prosperity we enjoy today.

So on the first of May every year, that’s what I explain to my children we are celebrating, commemorating and preserving. It‘s not just another holiday. It is a very special day indeed.