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Community Care Action Group to undertake ‘wildcat action’

Community Care Action Group held a large public demonstration in July 2021 Johnny Bugeja

Members from the Community Care Action Group will undertake “wildcat action” across Gibraltar in the form of smaller protests as it escalates action.

This would involve a small number of people protesting in various locations across town as from Wednesday, which has not yet been confirmed.

Following a second demonstration held in November, the Group handed in a letter to Government Minister, Albert Isola, who received it on behalf of the Chief Minister.

This has been met with a lack of engagement and “deafening silence,” the Group said in a statement.

“The letter called on the Chief Minister to commence a consultation on the arbitrary changes to the Community Officer Allowance on February 17, 2020, and pay arrears to our members,” the Action Group said.

Alternatively, it called on the Government to implement its “last three successive election manifesto promises” to equalise Pensionable Age for men and women at age 60.

The Group said it is evident there is “no good will on the Gibraltar Government’s part to resolve the situation of their making, nor produce their also promised Command Paper on state pensions”.

The decision to hold this form of protest was taken unanimously following an annual general meeting held last week where the Group members felt like their claims were not being heard.

“This is when people carry out protest action, but it is not a demonstration,” Joseph Capurro, Chairman of the Community Care Action Group, told the Chronicle.

“This would be that they would turn up somewhere with a few placards, but because it is a small group it doesn’t affect the main traffic or the main thoroughfare in any way.”

“This is about turning up at a location, a lot of shouting, a lot of noise, waving placards and then walking away.”

“The law allows us in a democracy to do these things, and as long as it doesn’t interrupt other people’s rights, we are allowed to air our grievances.”

The Group called for the support of all Unions whose members are or will be affected by the Community Officer Allowance changes and “who are unfairly disadvantaged by HM Government of Gibraltar’s failure to equalise State Pensions with women at age 60, as promised by this Government in their last three election manifestos.”

“The Group strongly opposes the present culture of fear and intimidation when citizens express their views in either private or public.”

The changes to Community Care came into effect in February 2020 and locked out new male applicants who would otherwise have been eligible at 60.

At the time, the trustees of Community Care said the changes were necessary to ensure payments targeted those who most need them and, in effect, meant reverting to the previous system used when the charity was first established.

The charity said the scheme had changed over the years from its original format, with relaxed eligibility criteria meaning that even men who retired with large pensions received full payments amounting to an “unjustifiable” £50 per hour of volunteering.

Community Care said the system had become “unfair,” hence the need for changes including means testing for employment income and pensions.

But the Community Care Action Group said the changes were implemented without prior warning or consultation, meaning many people were left without payments they had factored into their financial planning for retirement.

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