Hundreds marched down Main Street today in a combined union demonstration against temporary government contracts.
Unite the Union teamed up with the NASUWT teachers’s union and the GGCA to protest against the precarious agency employment that has allegedly left many young people working for years without job security.
“This is a protest that is much needed,” said Sebastian Sauer, Vice-Chairman of Unite. “We can no longer accept these contracts, terms and conditions they’re offering our young people at work. We need to put a stop to it, which is why we were in the street today with hundreds of people.
“But this does not stop today – it is just the beginning. It is now up to the Chief Minister to act. He already said he would put an end to this situation in May, in the New Year message and again this week, but now we need to see it in black and white.”
“When people do not have permanent contracts those who are classed as supply workers do not have sick or annual leave. They have inferior conditions to their counterparts working beside them, they can’t buy a house or get a loan for a car, even though some of them even have kids.
“These current arrangements not only occur in the health service (GHA) either, but also throughout the civil service, public sector companies. If the government leads the way when it is supposed to be the best employer in Gibraltar and the example to others, what is the private sector going to do?
“The result is that it’s happening everywhere from hotels to wholesalers which is why we came down to the town centre to end it. This an anti-socialist agenda as a socialist government should look after the workers and that is clearly not what they’re doing now.”
Around 2,000 protestors walked from Casemates Square to the Piazza and then on to No. 6 Convent Place, making a definitive statement that they would not be silenced despite claims civil servants were
Asked why the Union had taken up this fight now against a practice that had been going on for many years, Sauer said it was up to the members to take action. “A month ago the whole general assembly of shop stewards rose up to say that enough is enough.”
He added that this was “only the beginning of the battle as we will not rest until this stops”, planning further actions in the future which he did not want to reveal on the day.
Local businessman Blythe El Blay, who was at the demonstration, said it was a little bit of a Tory initiative: “The GSD did the same, having people working for £400 a month, something I know because I worked for a company that employed workers at this salary.
“There was always that abuse that allowed cheap labour that eventually trickles down and affects everybody. Temporary contracts are now affecting our youth too, as they come back from UK with a degree and get paid the minimum wage to do whatever role they’re fulfilling.
“This policy also affects older people as everybody falls into the same line while the agencies are filling their pockets. It is true that those people who clocked in and went home have been the catalyst of this government initiative but we hope this protest will be the downfall of it all.”
In response to the demonstration, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he would work with Unite the Union to resolve these issues. “I will not ignore the views represented by those demonstrating,” he said. “This Monday the Cabinet has already agreed it will only have two agenda items, Brexit and the issue of agency workers, so that we resolve the latter matter as quickly as possible.
“I also look forward to continuing the other good work I have done with Unite in so many areas since I was elected, not least in respect of the introduction of pensions in the private sector and the recognition of trade unions. There is a lot we have done together and a lot still to do.”