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Unite urges Govt to address impact of technology on public sector jobs

Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

Unite the Union has called on the Gibraltar Government to engage in meaningful dialogue to address the impact of technology on the public sector and ensure current and future jobs are protected.

“Brexit, Covid-19 and our inability to weather the storm financially has led to economic hardships for Gibraltar and our community,” Unite’s Public Sector Branch said in a statement.

“To weather such storm it is important that [the Government of Gibraltar] engages in meaningful and transparent collective bargaining with the Unions as opposed to taking unilateral decisions and expecting conformity.”

“The Government of Gibraltar’s current position has already led to a collective fastening of seatbelts for the public sector, which has already endured a pay freeze over the last couple of years whilst witnessing financially conflictive decisions being made without any consultation contrary to the government’s phrase ‘adopt a united front’.”

Unite said it agreed with the call for a united front to tackle the challenges facing Gibraltar.

But it said it would not agree with “one-sided decision-making” that to date had led to a pay freeze, a 4.3% IRP increase, growth in privatisation within Government departments, the erosion of worker’s standards of living and the depletion of the public sector.

“It is distressing to witness the deterioration of the public sector complement levels as individual employees are being redeployed, seconded and directly appointed to roles without prior consultation,” the union said.

“This leads to manning level shortfalls within public sector departments paving the way for automation of services (e-Gov) and loss of posts.”

Unite’s Public Sector Branch said the aim of e-Gov must not be to “cut people-related costs” but rather to help the current public sector complement to produce a more effective service for the public.

It urged the government to:

• Safeguard workers' rights and interests as Gibraltar’s economy, based on paid labour force, is driven to an economy based on automated production;

• To stop any privatisation work carried out by the public sector;

• To ensure the social rights of all Gibraltar citizens impacted by these changes are taken into consideration;

• To stop the “jobless economy” Gibraltar could be facing in years to come by the replacement of human labour with technology, making obsolete many public sector posts;

• To mitigate the consequences this will have on Gibraltar’s labour market, as automation transcends from the public sector to the private sector.

Unite’s Public Sector Branch called on the government to engage with the trade unions in a National Joint Trade Union for Government Services forum in order to initiate a process of negotiation in respect of pay within the public sector prior to the end of the current financial year.

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