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Unite hits back at Chamber in row over Covid-19 layoffs

Unite the Union has called on the Chamber of Commerce to acknowledge the “day-to-day influx of redundancies, breaches in contracts, unlawful deductions of wages under the heading COVID-19” and the increase of “pressure” experienced by employees at the workplace.

Unite was reacting to a statement in which the Chamber said the union was causing “unnecessary distress and alarm” by claiming many employers were using Covid-19 as an excuse to lay off staff.

The union accused the chamber of being “dismissive” of its concerns over worker’s rights, and said the Chamber also indirectly “puts into question” the announcement made by the Government of Gibraltar on August 7 on the “substantial number of notices seeking the termination of employment contracts in July”..”

In a statement Unite said it was “astonished” at what it described as the Chamber’s “break with reality”..”

“Unite is being called irresponsible for trying to protect workers’ rights but it is the Chamber of Commerce who are being irresponsible for only taking into account the effects on businesses,” it said.

The union emphasised that employees’ contributions are part and parcel of a healthy economy, and said the Chamber is choosing to ignore this fact.

Unite said it is willing to provide the necessary evidence for the Chamber of Commerce to “wake up to the reality we see in our office on a daily basis.”

“It is remarkable that the Chamber of Commerce have forgotten that they were present throughout all the discussions of the Coronavirus Economic Liaison & Advisory Committee (CELAC) and in particular those that focussed on proposed support to employees and employers over the provision of paid Covid sick pay separate from the existing statutory sick pay provisions,” the union said.

“The foundation of these proposals is restricting virus transmission, providing a disincentive to workers from attending work when they may have Covid and protecting employers from potentially sick employees spreading the virus to other workers and customers, which could in turn result in businesses having to temporarily shut down and to incurring greater costs through additional sick pay and loss of badly needed revenue.”

“The Chamber are well aware of the fully articulated and sound economic drivers behind these proposals and also the Government support that would underpin any such Covid sick pay.”

Therefore, for Unite, the Chamber of Commerce’s statement is “unfounded, irresponsible and remarkably inaccurate”, the union said.