Unite plans demo on workers’ rights......…as former convenor slams union’s local leadership
Unite the Union has begun distributing leaflets to housing estates and workplaces ahead of the demonstration it will hold next week against the ‘exploitation of workers’ in Gibraltar.
The Union held a convening meeting at its Transport House headquarters yesterday which drew together around 150 shop stewards and activists in order to discuss the final details ahead of its ‘Day of Action’.
The demonstration is set to take place on Wednesday January 16 as from 3.30pm in Casemates Square.
The leaflet, which Unite members began distributing yesterday evening, calls on the public to join the union at the demonstration and ‘take a stand for future generations’.
The document states: “Unite the Union is taking a stand against the exploitation of workers in Gibraltar, from the lack of proper apprenticeships to the exploitation of agency workers, many of whom are young people.”
“We need to send a clear message that we will not allow workers’ rights to be eroded in Gibraltar.”
“Stand shoulder to shoulder with us and other workers in voicing without fear the right for our youth to enjoy quality training and secure jobs in their homeland and for workers in general to be treated fairly therefore, improving the kind of service that our community deserves.”
Unite is therefore demanding solutions which, it lists, includes an end to zero-hour contracts, proper training apprenticeships, real jobs and opportunities for the youth, an end to “austerity disguised as efficiency measures”, the advertisement of public sector vacancies and an end to “creeping privatisation”.
Additionally, Unite is set to meet with Gibraltar’s other unions – the GGCA and Gibraltar NASUWT - on Thursday as it aims to secure their support for the demonstration.
A former convenor at Unite the Union in Gibraltar has publically condemned the organisation’s local leadership, insisting in a damning statement that Unite members in Gibraltar are receiving “unprofessional and disgraceful” service.
Marilyn Bramble is a lifelong member of Unite and served as the union’s GHA shop steward for nearly 10 years before becoming a convenor for four years, during which time she also became the first Gibraltarian to sit as an observer on Unite’s Executive Council in the UK.
But her experiences in the upper tiers of the union left her querying whether Unite locally was doing everything it could to champion the rights of its members.
“It was while I was a member of the Executive Council and observing how it worked in the UK that I realised that the membership in Gibraltar was not getting the service they deserved,” she told the Chronicle, echoing sentiments expressed in an open letter posted on social media.
Mrs Bramble said she had approached the union’s top officials here and repeated “on countless occasions” that a drastic change was needed.
She argues that members were being treated with “total disrespect and disregard” instead of being the union’s top priority.
Mrs Bramble said her plea fell on deaf ears, leaving her feeling ignored and ridiculed. The stress of the situation also had a personal impact on her and she found herself sleeping just a few hours at night and losing weight.
Fed up with the situation, she eventually discussed her concerns about the “unprofessional and disgraceful service” with union officials in the UK.
Mrs Bramble claims she was the victim of nasty rumours and claims that she was bad-mouthing Gibraltar in the UK, something she robustly rejects.
“All I have ever done is try and get the best deal for Gibraltar and the workforce and I believe I was able to do that when I was successful in getting Gibraltar included on all documentation referring to Brexit, and also a firm commitment from the Labour party that Gibraltar would be protected,” she said of her time on Unite’s Executive Council.
“There are also over 60 people present in the Executive Committee meetings that would be able to vouch for the fact that all my contributions in the UK have been of a positive nature towards my country and countrymen.”
The impact of the situation left her feeling “intimidated, degraded, humiliated and embarrassed”, she said.
And she added: “In short, after tackling many bullying and harassment cases, I found myself at the centre of one of the worst I'd experienced but who could I call?”
“It was made impossible for me to continue and I had to walk away.”
“The decision to do this was not one that I took easily and one that I still battle with today, especially when I couldn't inform the members of the reasons why.”
Mrs Bramble said she had not come out publically on the issue beforehand because she had wanted to have her concerns addressed internally for the sake of the union’s members.
She said she had discussed those concerns with senior UK officials including Tony Woodhouse, the chair of Unite’s Executive Council, and had submitted proof and a list of witnesses who would back her claims.
She was assured that an investigation would be conducted but said that as of yesterday, neither she nor any of those witnesses had been contacted.
“I publically call for an investigation to be undertaken, that way it shall be clear whether there is any truth in what I have reported,” she said.
“I do not want to be dragged down to the level of the individuals that have caused me to live this hell by going from person to person giving an account of what I say is the truth.”
“The truth is the truth and should come out for all to see.”
Yesterday, a spokesman for Unite said Mrs Bramble’s statement was being carefully considered by union officials.
“Head Office [in the UK] is looking at the letter,” the spokesman said.
But while he declined to be drawn in any detail on the claims, the spokesman questioned the timing of the statement, which comes as Unite plans a major demonstration on workers’ rights.
“At our activist meeting today, it was raised by many of the activists that it’s not a coincidence that she has come out public a few days prior to the demonstration on the misuse of supply and agency worker,” the spokesman said.