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Unite reflects on significant challenges ahead

One year on from its march up Main Street in demonstration against insecure work, Unite the Union has today reflected on the progress it has made as it set out the “significant” work it plans to undertake.

The demonstration saw more than 1,000 people march up the length of Main Street protesting against the proliferation of insecure employment practices across Gibraltar.

Following the march a fifteen point “manifesto for change” was presented to the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on February 1 in correspondence detailing the aspirations of those living and working in Gibraltar on this agenda.

Of those fifteen points, these have either been delivered on or commitments from government have been received in the form of the Chief Minister’s budget speech last year and more recently in the GLSP/Liberals election manifesto.

As well as correspondence received by the union from Mr Picardo in the lead up to the general election, the union added.

“Much progress has been achieved on the agenda that many in Gibraltar hold up as a key priority for Unite; however there remains significant work to undertake to meet the budget speech commitments and election promises,” Unite said in a statement.

Stuart Davies, Unite National Officer for Gibraltar said: “The union, it’s members and those living and working in Gibraltar can be proud of the achievements so far in tackling insecure working practices in Gibraltar.”

“We have seen hundreds of agency roles converted into permanent roles, providing security and careers to those job holders.”

“Where agency workers were covering genuine short-term absences or vacancies, a large number of these have been converted into directly employed, fixed term contracts delivering the benefits of better pay and conditions, plus where agency workers are engaged, they enjoy parity of pay from day one.”

“We welcome the positivity in which the Government of Gibraltar have engaged with Unite on this agenda and the commitments that have been received from both government and the Chief Minister, but we still have much work to do.”

Gillian Birkett, Unite Regional Officer for Gibraltar said: “The campaign has to date has been successful; however there do remain significant challenges and often resolving one issue, creates another to be resolved.”

“Those engaged on fixed term contracts covering genuine absences continue to face uncertainty and there are examples of agency workers not being paid parity from day one in the public sector or following twelve weeks engagement in the private sector as per the legislation change that the demonstration achieved.”

“The union continues to deal with these issues; however it highlights that enforcement needs to be improved, particularly in the private sector and the Swedish Derogation scrapped in legislation, as well as guidance being issued to employers and also the completion of a much needed collective agreement with Unite on agency workers in the public sector.”

“These are all part of the fifteen point plan and the union has received commitments from government as to their delivery; although it does highlight that whilst we can be proud of the achievements, we still have a long way to go”.

Christian Duo, Chair of the Unite Gibraltar Executive said “Whilst the union and its members can be rightly proud of the improvements achieved following the march and demonstration on the 16th January, key elements of the fifteen point plan have not been delivered and these represent a priority for Unite in 2020.”

“We have clear, positive engagement and commitments from the Chief Minister and his government, but comprehensive work needs to be undertaken to improve the standards of and protect those most vulnerable in the employment market.”

“Unite have received clear commitments from the Government of Gibraltar around abolishing the abuse of zero hours contracts entirely from the Gibraltarian economy and also for a full review of the supported employment schemes to makes these fit for purpose.”

“The union will be pressing government for urgent progress on these and other key issues so as the union can deliver the aspirations of the 2,000 plus who marched and demonstrated on the 16th January last year”.

The union said it is currently seeking to arrange comprehensive dialogue with Mr Picardo to “realise the outstanding commitments that have been provided to Unite”.