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Opinion & Analysis

Workers, investment and growth, not cuts should be central to any future plan says Unite

Eyleen Gomez

Unite, the union for workers in Gibraltar, has issued its May Day message calling upon workers, investment and growth to be the key drivers to any future plan post Covid.

These factors and not cuts, should be the stimulus to deal with the economic damage and any national debt acquired as a result of the measures put in place by Government to protect jobs and businesses during the on-going crisis. International Workers’ Day represents the opportunity to celebrate the huge and selfless contribution by those working in Gibraltar to tackle the unprecedented crisis posed by coronavirus and to recognise the important role they have to play in the future recovery.

Stuart Davies, Unite National Officer for Gibraltar said: “There is no better occasion than May Day to recognise the herculean effort by working people in Gibraltar across both the public and private sectors in fighting Covid-19. Whether caring for or keeping people safe, ensuring that the population are supplied, that the public sector functions well to support people and businesses, that utilities continue to operate efficiently or workers ensuring some level of economic activity to better enable the bounce back of the economy.

The contribution to date and into the future should never be forgotten, that workers have risen to the challenge, often placing themselves and by association their families at risk. Therefore any commentary about the contribution of workers that seeks to undermine their response or questions their commitment should be rejected.

“The immediate Covid crisis is clearly the priority and continuing the excellent work to date in terms of infection control; however as minds turn to safely emerging from lockdown and restarting the economy in a responsible fashion there is clearly a debate as to the future plan for Gibraltar. Workers have proven critical to the fight against coronavirus and they will be central to the future economic recovery.

Any economic damage or debt resulting from the Covid crisis will be tackled with workers, investment and growth at the heart of that economic recovery plan. Austerity does not work, but positive economic activity and growth will enable the economy to return to full strength, increase government income and over the long term pay down the debt that has accumulated by protecting incomes, jobs, people and businesses. There should be no call to reduce debt quickly by making cuts, robust economies invest and grow out of crisis.

“Workers, the vanguard against coronavirus who will be at the forefront of the economic bounce back, should have an integral role across the public and private sectors, be more involved in employer decision making and using their practical expertise within the sectors that they work. Workers should also have a greater collective voice in the workplace through trade union recognition and collective bargaining.

The Gibraltar economy should move away from a reliance on low wages in large parts of the workforce, develop better quality jobs that are more productive and drive up greater levels of economic activity. Minimum employment standards need to be improved, not cut, including the introduction of the Gibraltar Living Wage to drive long-term prosperity, improve job security and increase the share of the wealth.

Also before calls of “more for less” are made we should remember the large number of permanent vacancies that continue to exist across the public sector, particularly within the GHA where members are having to cover gaps or vacancies are filled by agency or fixed term contract employees. The public sector has more than proven its worth during this crisis and deserves to be fully resourced, not run under headcount.

“Finally May Day is a day that we normally and publicly celebrate the contribution and struggle of working people. Obviously the traditional May Day events have been cancelled, therefore I want to take this opportunity to thank all Unite members for their huge contributions during the crisis and we look forward to marking that contribution at an appropriate event in the near future”.