Turn these lessons into lasting and positive change
by Leader of Together Gibraltar, Marlene Hassan Nahon
The meaning and symbolic power of this year’s international workers day has been profoundly transformed by the coronavirus crisis, and it is the job of our political forces to turn this tide of social support into real protection from exploitation and vulnerability for workers.
We have seen society around us recognise the value of essential tasks that were being grossly undervalued before the pandemic: those who produce, transport and distribute the food we put on our plates, those who clean and maintain our fundamental infrastructures, those who care for us when we are sick and vulnerable… these often underpaid workers have proven much more valuable than those who speculate in markets for enormous profits.
We have also seen the value of a strong nation-state, both as a provider of essential public services, as well as a proactive presence in the economy, ready to bail out workers and businesses and protect our economy from fatal damage. Let us not fool ourselves, it is the courage and responsibility of essential workers and the protections granted by the newly extended welfare net that is keeping society from collapsing altogether.
Together Gibraltar believes strongly that this tandem, workers and state, should continue to be the driving force of countries through and well beyond this pandemic, so that we can direct our economies away from environmental destruction and precarious labour, and embark on the creation of a new, sustainable economy where no workers are left behind.
As for the challenges that workers in Gibraltar face today, we have two important fronts that need to be focused on. Firstly, we need to protect our workers' health, and we need to do this better than we have until now if we are to start easing lockdowns safely.
The use of protective equipment should be facilitated and encouraged further, and a more efficient testing strategy executed. As a small and wealthy community of just over 30k, there is no reason why any worker should go without adequate protection or not be tested regularly - we now know this is the single most effective means of controlling the spread of the coronavirus in the absence of a full lockdown, and it has already been deployed successfully by other countries.
Secondly, we need to find ways of supporting those hardest hit by this crisis and provide tools for these sectors to adapt to the new reality we will face in the coming months. Economic support for workers should continue until the hardship is over, even at the cost of state deficits.
It is time for Gibraltar to put its hard earned and much flouted economic success to work, and step up to the challenge. The state of our public finances, often described as more secure than our western neighbours, should allow for a robust and continued response.
As we celebrate this day, let us pledge not to forget the sacrifices made by essential services around the world. We might not have seen deaths from this terrible virus locally, but there are many people working around the world, often in the midst of virulent outbreaks, so that we may continue to provide for our families and live in relative comfort and security. We salute and thank these workers from our little corner of the world.
As a political force for change Together Gibraltar will not forget the lessons learned throughout this pandemic, and will continue to work hard to ensure that these lessons turn into lasting, positive change.