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Govt ‘is failing agency workers’, GSD says

The GSD has questioned the Gibraltar Government’s socialist credentials, accusing it of failing to prevent the exploitation of agency workers even while the UK tightens laws in this area.

The GSD was reacting to news that the UK Government had announced a raft of reforms to protect UK workers, including the closure of loopholes that allow agency workers to be employed on cheaper rates than permanent employees.

The UK reforms follow a report produced by Mathew Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, on employment practices in the UK which the Prime Minister had commissioned in 2016.

The reforms were rightly described by UK Business Secretary Greg Clark as the “largest upgrade in workers’ rights in [the UK] over a generation”.

The GSD said it was “really sad” that at a time when UK workers’ rights would experience a quantum leap, the Gibraltar Government refused to step in and do anything to prevent the exploitation of agency workers in Gibraltar.

“On the contrary the Government appears to be content to see the owners of recruitment agencies line their pockets at the expense of agency workers, most of which are young people,” the GSD said.

The GSD said many of these workers cannot get a mortgage because of the insecurity of their job situation and would rightly feel that being asked to spend up to £300,000 on “so-called ‘affordable homes’” at Hassans Centenary Terraces was at best a distant dream.

It said the situation with agency workers illustrated how disconnected the Government had become from the aspirations of working people in the community.

The GSD underlined how the Government in 2013 increased the amount of time agency workers needed to work in a job to qualify for the same pay and leave entitlements as their permanent counterparts from 12 weeks, as it was in the UK, to 52 weeks.

The need for this change had never been explained, the GSD said, but it had prevented hundreds of agency workers from acquiring rights as to pay and leave as their permanent public service counterparts.

Not only that, the GSD said, but even this 52 week period was not being respected.

Workers were being transferred from one part of the public service to another and thus prevent from accruing better rights on pay and leave.

“It is an indictment of the Government’s socialist credentials that while questionable legal loopholes are being closed by a Conservative Government in the UK a Socialist Government in Gibraltar is perpetuating them,” said Opposition MP Daniel Feetham.

“For us this has not just been about criticising the Government. We have been positive and made public our own proposals for reform.”

“Those reforms include advertising genuine vacancies in the public service, reducing the qualifying period from 52 weeks to 12 weeks as it was prior to 2013, but also closing all legal loopholes that prevent workers from acquiring the same rights as their permanent counterparts.”

“We also need to tackle zero hour contracts which is something that the UK has not dealt with but which we like to put an end to.”

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