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Unite postpones GHA demo over Covid concerns

Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

Unite the Union’s demonstration planned for Monday afternoon has been postponed based on advice from the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, who said a demonstration of such a size “could cause services to be significantly impacted” by the spread of the Omicron variant in Gibraltar.  

The demonstration, which had received wide backing from other unions and community groups, was to protesting against the use of insecure and short-term contracts within the GHA.  

On Friday afternoon, the union issued a statement that although it will cancel Monday’s event, it will continue to speak with its members to see if it can “potentially expand selective industrial action to other departments” of the GHA.    

“As a trade union, Unite the Union tackles issues of health and safety on a daily basis,” the union said in a statement.  

“Since the onset of Covid-19 we have been at the forefront in protecting our members against exploitative employers looking to cut corners on issues of health and safety.” 

“As an organisation we are acutely aware that the increase in Omicron cases in Gibraltar in recent days has been substantial and expected to further rise well beyond a thousand active cases [while] numbers of individuals in isolation in turn will also increase.”  

“We have been informed by Public Health Gibraltar that the numbers anticipated to attend could increase potential positive cases and self-isolation to levels where critical service delivery could be impacted.” 

“In light of the information we have received from the Director of Public Health and in the interests of those attending many of whom are frontline healthcare workers, members of the community, and especially those who may be deemed as vulnerable to omicron it is only correct that a temporary postponement takes place.” 

“We are grateful for the support for the demonstration from groups such as the Gibraltar Disability Rights Federation, Special Needs Action Group, as well as our sister unions and members of the community who were to attend, we know that we can count on your full support in the future once a new date is to be confirmed.” 

Over the past few months there has been growing dissatisfaction among healthcare workers which has led to departments declaring selective industrial action.  

The union said: “In light of the postponement Unite will now be engaging with its members across the health and care sector to potentially expand the selective industrial action to other departments as our ability to exercise civil liberties remains impacted due to the rise of Omicron within the community.” 

“The Union remains deeply concerned that health and care workers on the frontline have continued to be subjected to an employer that has failed to tackle longstanding issues whilst expanding the use of insecure contracts which keeps many frontline workers in insecure unemployment in such a vital sector.” 

“Furthermore, as an organisation we are conscious that by pursuing the public demonstration at this time will potentially enable the Gibraltar Government to scapegoat the Union’s demonstration for any increase in transmission of the omicron variant in the coming days and weeks.” 

“This would not be fair to our hardworking members, nor those in the community who wish to see a vastly improved running of the health and care sector that treats staff and patients alike with the dignity and respect that they deserve.” 

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